Najib Razak: Interview on Al Jazeera

April 28, 2013

Najib Razak meets Veronica Pedrosa on Al Jazeera

Caretaker PM Najib Razak recorded an interview with Al Jazeera a few weeks ago, apparently, and it aired yesterday.

It will probably go down as one more of Najib’s election related blunders to go along with waiting so long to dissolve Parliament and campaign as a Presidential candidate in a Parliamentary election.


Few things about the interview. Firstly, Veronica Pedrosa did a great job. Interviewers frequently get intimidated in front of Heads of State or, out of respect, avoid asking the most obvious and difficult questions. Veronica did neither and I respect her for that.

Secondly, Najib’s body language was off for the interview from start to finish. His legs were shaking. He didn’t know what to do with his hands. His face showed, at times a lack of interest, and at other times a real sense of discomfort with the questions.

Thirdly, on content Najib probably scored a low C. At a general sense he did his best to present himself as someone in a position of leadership who has some grasp of the difficult issues facing his country. However, whenever the interviewer asked about specifics Najib gave answers that probably hurt him more than they helped him.

For instance when asked about debating Anwar Ibrahim, Najib said that there are many ways to engage with people in an election and he was focused on other ways. He said a debate “probably won’t happen”. Well, is it a probability or a possibility or impossible? His answer was weak and showed that after 2 years of avoiding facing Anwar head-to-head he still doesn’t have a good answer to the question.

When asked about the Allah issue I think Najib really botched his response. The first part of the answer probably would have been OK a it reflects a sort of flimsy, neither here neither there attitude of let’s just sweep issues under the rug and try to get along. But when Veronica pressed him on the comparison between Malaysia and Lebanon, Najib once again did not have a solid answer and just said in Malaysia we’re different just because and that’s that.

The problem is that Najib may not even believe the position on non-Muslims not using the world Allah in Malaysia is a valid position. He is a Western educated self-proclaimed ‘moderate’ who is hardly a hardliner when it comes to issues of religion. Yet on this one issue he needs to pander shamelessly to the ultra right Malay base. Even PAS has relented on the position and said there is no problem here. So Najib lost big time on this one.

Which brings us to PAS. It is quite “un-statesmenship” like to berate and attack the Islamic Party of Malaysia during an election like Najib did. Basically when asked “What does PAS stand for” Najib poured scorn on PAS as if it was some antique relic party that still used candles and push carts and wrote on papyrus and animal skins.

In actual fact, PAS is a very modern party going through an amazing internal transformation and has come out the other end far more willing and capable to adapt to the time then UMNO has thus far shown any capacity for. My sense is Najib’s distasteful comments about PAS, if they make it to the grassroots, will backfire among middle of the ground Malays who respect the positions that PAS takes but are focused on outcomes for the country.

I suggest you take 20 minutes to watch the interview. It’s telling how the Prime Minister, after four years in office, still lacks the confidence and composure to answer a few difficult questions.

By comparison Anwar Ibrahim gave interviews on  Al Jazeera and CNBC (above) 15 days ago and generally performed much better.–Din Merican

12 thoughts on “Najib Razak: Interview on Al Jazeera

  1. See the following quotes in Malaysian context and one can see the relevance and applicability of them to the politics of Najib and UMNO.

    “Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising each to protect him from the other.” (Mark Twain)

    “When those who are smart do not engage in politics, they are punished by being governed by those who are dumb.” (Plato)

  2. Well, Din, my impression of the interview is that Najib didn’t do too badly at all as you seemed to paint it. Religion and race in Malaysia have always been sensitive and difficult subjects to deal with and we even used to have draconian laws to prevent their open discussions by the public. They will remain thorns in our varied societies in Malaysia for a long time to come.
    Najib could have done better. He seems to lack conviction.–Din Merican

  3. Yes Mahathir from our state, Kedah Darul Aman, is the main culprit behind many hidden things. Unfortunately all these things have been revealed in these recent years. Thanks to social media networks and free online media at home and abroad.

    Mahathir has caused Badawi & the current Najib Government to inherit all the financial problems arising from our nation’s huge debt. In Budget 2013, our national debt is expected to increase to RM 502 billion, 107.4% increase over the past 8 years, due to irresponsible fiscal spending and blatant bribery lately by Najib to win votes. Protecting cronies it seems..Sex videos? who will believe it? Only idiots will…

  4. Want to know why Najib performed badly for this interview? It’s because it is not a fixed interview like the one he did on CNN. His sesi- temubual bersama rakyat etc are all fixed. Sometimes you wonder if they are spontaneous than the answers given wouldn’t sound so planned. Kudos to Veronica for a very good and hard interview.

  5. I think the way Najib performed is as expected when the interview is impromptu and unscripted… and Anwar seems more composed and confident. Perhaps that is why he (Najib) is afraid of a face-to-face debate live on TV with Anwar.

    We must remember Najib was thrown into politics after his father Tun Razak died and one would have expected him to have been much more confident and suave after close to 30 years in public limelight but unfortunately, he didn’t use those years to improve himself but instead just follow the scripts…

    Anwar, on the other hand was a grass-root leader as a student activist in the university and later at ABIM and not to mention the humiliation he suffered in the hands of the government he served and in jail.

  6. Again more MUDDLE-HEADEDNESS by Najib. I am completely confused why he stuck his neck out pandering to the right-wing on English-language paid-TV – when he has Taib being an unbearable pain in CRUCIAL state of Sarawak?

    Honestly there is theory going around that Najib would survive being kicked out of UMNO presidency.. ALL the more reason to remove UMNO/BN..The man is a PERSISTENT SCREW-UP..It really explains why he has spent more than RM58billion before nomination to buy this election. The way he racks up the bills, he is just a train-wreck – we are going to wait for it to crash?

  7. V Pedrosa let him easily for she was shaky herself. Why she did not talk about press freedom and the on going RCI on illegal ICs in Sabah. For the problems of the Suluks was inadvertently caused by the easy obtaining of ICs which subsequently gave them a bed to land on.

  8. I do agree with you Kereshanan , he got away easily, perhaps she was brief b4 the interview to go easy on him,perhaps????…Oouch!!!

  9. You are right kereshanan. She should havr pressed more about Perkasa, the press freedom or the RCI on the ics in Sabah. Najib himself said the Kadazan Dusun are uncomfortable with the numbers of illegals in Sabah. Maybe she should have asked why are there so many illegals in the first place? Was there nothing done to prevent this from happening?

  10. Najib has never been noted as a brilliant person or a visionary leader. I met some of his cousins at a function last Friday evening and they of course all think very highly about him and want him to continue as PM after GE 13. I told them that, even if BN wins, Najib may not be the next PM and that was a big shock to them. Well, the discussion continued and I managed to keep it a friendly one.

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