APCO: Discourse Must Go Back To The Fundamental Issues Of Accountability And Due Process

24 December 2010

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APCO’s deep involvement in the Prime Minister’s administration is the clearest proof of UMNO/Barisan Nasional’s hypocrisy.

For more than a decade, it has deafened the country with incessant propaganda to portray me as a Jewish agent when surreptitiously it hires a firm known for its strong link with the Israeli intelligence and political establishment to manage one of the most influential functions of the administration i.e. messaging and communication.

Therefore, the bulk of my contention when I first raised this issue in Dewan Rakyat was directed at the Prime Minister’s hypocrisy and carelessness in hiring a firm with a track record such as APCO’s. It is only natural that Pakatan Rakyat MPs requested for the government to come clean on the extent of APCO’s involvement in the formulation of policies and messaging under the current Prime Minister.

There are numerous records available publicly to substantiate APCO’s unhealthy track record of working for regimes with penchant for stifling human rights and democratic space. YB Tian Chua (Member of
Dewan Rakyat for Batu) had written extensively on this in two articles (“APCO: In Mercenaries We Trust” and “APCO & Najib: Beneath the PR Veil”). Both articles; published by Malaysiakini provide insights into the workings of APCO and its cosy relationship with regimes or causes that are deemed to be detrimental to the promotion of democracy and
public interest.

Thus, the issue was never about the simplistic question of who came up with 1Malaysia. It is about holding the government of the day accountable for its haphazard behaviour in spending the public money (to the tune of RM77 million for a one-year service) to hire a firm for its own image building. More importantly, it is about the lack of responsibility of a Prime Minister in ignoring APCO’s track record and potential security risks posed by the latter.

Unfortunately, UMNO/Barisan Nasional was never prepared to be engaged on these two critical issues. It went on an over-kill drive from the beginning which culminated in the suspension of four members of Dewan
Rakyat recently. It trampled on every known ethics and norms including the natural process of allowing an accused to present and argue his case before a fair and just panel.

The fact that I was not allowed to present evidence to the Parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee speaks volume of Prime Minister’s intention to avoid the fundamental issues of accountability and negligence on his part in hiring APCO. In the end, UMNO/Barisan Nasional created another first in the history of Dewan Rakyat when it orchestrated our suspension without a debate and based on a simple letter of denial from APCO.

I must also respond to UMNO/Barisan Nasional’s latest claim that a mere letter of denial from APCO and a statement from one Robert M Shrum constitute an undisputable proof that APCO was not involved in the conceptualisation of 1Malaysia; neither was 1Malaysia adopted from One Israel campaign. In a normal court of law, such “evidence” would have to stand the scrutiny of cross examination to ensure that they are credible and acceptable for the purpose of a case. No court or
parliamentary committee of a respectable standing would have dismissed a case and arrived at a biased verdict purely on an account of two letters produced by the prosecutor.

Going by the same UMNO/Barisan Nasional’s logic, a statutory declaration made by P Balasubramaniam on his allegation of the Prime Minister’s relationship with Altantuya Sharibu would have been taken as an undisputable proof. Likewise, the two contracts signed by APCO with the governments of Malaysia and Israel respectively that are in my possession would have to be taken as an undisputable proof of a link between the 1Malaysia campaign with other campaigns that APCO or
its personnel had worked on previously.

Fortunately, the due process of law and natural justice administered in the fairest manner will dictate that any evidence produced will be subject to the highest scrutiny. It is in this respect that I have been vocal in my criticism because UMNO/Barisan Nasional is determined to avoid any scrutiny of its relations with APCO to the point that it would not allow the Parliamentary Rights and Privileges Committee from going through the proper motion of its proceedings.

Therefore, UMNO/Barisan Nasional’s release of the two documents is nothing more than an orchestrated media play that ensures no scrutiny of the “evidence” it claims to have. Anyone who is familiar with UMNO/Barisan Nasional’s history in orchestrating character assassination campaigns that often involve the manufacture of “false evidences” would naturally be sceptical of the latest trial by media.

In the end, the country must go back to the fundamental questions that Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Tun Razak is so keen to avoid.

The most fundamental question arose from a report by news portal The Malaysian Insider dated 28 July 2009 entitled “Money Being Splurged To Boost Image of Najib’s Administration”. I reproduced here the key contents which had never been denied officially by the Prime Minister:

“It is understood that the services of Apco Worldwide was brought in by Omar Mustapha, the close aide of the PM who was recently embroiled in controversy over his proposed appointment onto the board of national oil company Petronas.

Apco Worldwide is understood to have had an official based in Najib’s office since the early days of the administration.

Apco and other public relations specialists from the United States have also been helping Najib craft his 100 days strategy. This includes his 1 Malaysia message and other key platforms of his administration.”

If this is indeed true, the Prime Minister must then be prepared to explain the other fundamental issue – his trigger happy attitude in using taxpayers’ money to hire a firm for the sole good of his party; especially one with such a questionable track record that could have compromised the country’s security.

DATO’ SERI ANWAR IBRAHIM
LEADER OF OPPOSITION
24 DECEMBER 2010

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