Speaking in London to promote his book about himself, former banker Nazir Razak laboured to explain his relevance on Tuesday night.
His general presentation was that as the better and more honest man he had decided not to challenge his own brother in politics because he thought it would not do his image any good and would upset his Mum. After all, he regards Ed Miliband, now Labour’s environment spokesman in the UK, as ‘finished’.
Despite his failure to actually embark on a career in politics, beyond dabbling from time to time with caustic remarks from the sidelines (reported precisely because he was Najib’s brother) Nazir Razak was revealed to the bemused London audience as a member of the Advisory Board of the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University and as as a visiting fellow.*
The alleged cream of the next generation of Britain’s aspiring political leadership is therefore being educated in governance at an institution set up by a man who made his money from the corruption of Putin’s Russia and is being lectured to by the brother of the world’s most notorious kleptocrat!
Nazir himself has managed, so far, to dodge culpability for any role he may have played as a facilitator and silent benefactor of Najib’s crimes, just as Blavatnik claims he is no friend to Putin.
The Malaysian is a smooth talker and doubtless it was purely owing to his talents that he sped to the top job in his country’s biggest bank and considered himself next as a serious contender to run the country – nothing to do with his inherited position as a son, brother and nephew of prime ministers.
However, in this talk he admitted to lamentable failures, including on 1MDB where he said “very early on I realised something very fishy was going on”. He instructed CIMB staff never to have anything to do with 1MDB, yet repeatedly admitted in his talk “I don’t know if I did enough” in not publicly saying anything and likewise wondered if his friends on the board of 1MDB ought also have spoken out (Sarawak Report tried to get them to with no success).
In short, he left it to outsiders to do the work and stand up for right against wrong. Perhaps outsiders had not as much to lose as he did but neither did they have the moral obligation or level of protection. So, the answer to ‘What’s in a Name?’ appears to be not necessarily very much.
Of course, it is rather worse than this in that Nazir was caught up in laundering some of the 1MDB cash as well. He used his position to help his brother extract millions from the dodgy accounts in cash to be handed round during the GE13 election (i.e. for buying votes) but has been let off.
He told his London audience that he regrets ‘inadvertently passing money which may have come from 1MDB” through his bank “as favour” to Najib. Ahem.
However, since the name causing most outrage against good governance remains that of the brother, who is currently still politicking instead of serving his sentence, it was Nazir’s comments in that direction that garnered the real interest.
Scholars from the Blavatnik School should be intrigued to hear how Najib’s present noisy posturing as the “Bossku” de facto leader of his party and his prominent, well-funded role in electioneering around Malaysia was justified by his brother as acceptable until such time as the Federal Court confirms the upholding of his conviction by the Court of Appeal.
Under such circumstances it is perfectly appropriate, opined this senior advisor to the teaching of political thought in Britain, for Najib to continue as an MP and be embraced as a member by the ruling political party – despite having ripped of his country to the tune of billions and billions of dollars.
Is this a lesson Britain really wants its students to be taking from the politics of Malaysia -anymore than we want them learning about Najib’s techniques for buying votes?
Nazir had an even more revealing justification for the way that Najib conducts himself in that he openly reflected on the obvious parallels between his self-flaunting tactics and those of the former US President Donald Trump. Both are men who plan a come-back despite what would appear to be the most shaming possible revelations about their conduct.
In answer to questions Nazir reflected that his brother is “doing very well” with his new branding of ‘Bossku’ which he said resonates very well with the public. “I mean, you see Donald Trump, if someone is popular with the public then he’s a political force and that’s it. No intellectual can actually say he is right or wrong”.
So, the argument goes, if like Putin in Russia or demagogues elsewhere, a man who has broken or sought to break the law still manages to command a public following, even if it is through broadcasting straight lies and divisive politics, then no intellectual can say he is right or wrong.
Perhaps at the Blavatnik School this is known as the Goebbels Theorem?
The concept has certainly highlighted a deep suspicion (on the part of Sarawak Report for one) that Najib’s present heavily funded campaign, which is designed to make it politically impossible to put him in jail, is taken straight from the far right Republican playbook in America – and is probably being informed by the same for-sale strategists who have managed Najib’s campaigns in the past.
Deny, double-down, distract and attack (DDdDA) are the strategies that have been employed by Trump, and indeed Putin and autocrats across the world, as they work through personalised media to create an alternative narrative to the facts.
Patriotic Russians who watch TV believe that Ukranians have been bombing themselves to gain sympathy. Republicans in America say Biden cheated the election but that the riot on Capital Hill was not an attempt to overturn the result (it was just a tourist trip).
In Malaysia Najib has, through his paid media spinners, likewise adopted ever more lenghty, contorted and self-contradictory excuses to explain his thefts from 1MDB. He now claims that he simply had not realised what Jho Low was up to on his behalf (if only his brother had thought to ring him up to warn him or would admit that Najib is plainly lying).
Like Trump, Najib has not stopped there in feeding red meat and nonsense to his troops who are ready and disposed to believe him for patriotic and nostalgic reasons more to do with race and the history of his family (that’s what in a name).
In accordance with the playbook, there have to be others to blame and separate scandals to distract attention from his own.
Hence, the Great Zeti Scandal. People are invited to shrug off Najib’s own thefts but to boil with fury at the decision by the Governor of the Central Bank to allow the then Prime Minister cum Finance Minister to smuggle in the cash he stole and put it in his bank account. He was the man who controlled the country with an iron fist and she was at least in nominal charge the institution that struggled to maintain its independence in such a context. But it is she who is at fault for not protecting Najib from his sins, according to Najib.
Najib has never ceased to complain that she is to blame for letting him steal and then import the money and not himself. Worse, she too is being tarred as a criminal since his proxy Jho Low took care to do a lucrative business deal with her husband, which presumably they thought would prevent her cooperating with investigators. Because her spouse accepted HIS payment Najib seeks to divert anger into demanding her arrest for also receiving 1MDB money (a relative pittance compared to the billion dollars in his accounts).
Najib and his team have set another hare running against the judges who have found him guilty. The man who knows a thing or two about rigging the outcomes of certain trials himself, is presently attempting to set aside his entire string of convictions on the basis that one of the three appeal judges who upheld them was once on the board of an institution that lent 1MDB money.
If Najib had not later stolen the money the judge would not have reason to be conflicted, as his lawyers now seek to claim he was. However, why let logic get in the way of a good line to chant?
And so it goes on. As the evidence mounts in courtrooms across the world and the proof of Najib’s crimes are confirmed from all directions, the former prime minister and his media machine (bought with all that stolen money) simply claim the opposite with as much loud and saturation coverage as they can muster.
Will Putin succeed, will Trump succeed and will Najib succeed in prevailing with their false, disproven narratives in the end? Events will show.
Meanwhile, the ‘intellectuals’ at Oxford’s Blavatnik School, who are funded by their crimes, are teaching students that it is not for them to come to any conclusions as to who is telling the truth, let alone who is right or wrong. Should people be looking a little more critically at Oxford’s showcase school of government?
*Update – Contrary to his Wikipedia page which claims Nazir has been a member of the International Advisory Board of the Blavatnik School since 2015, SR can find no reference to his being in that position since September 2018. His tenure as ‘Transformational Visiting Fellow’ was in 2019.