The government’s deceit

Therein lies the deceit of such glowing descriptions about Malaysia by the Obama administration — whether real or embellished by Najib. They are inaccurate and disingenuous. They create a falsehood about the kind of undemocratic nation we have become — one that is ruled with the threat of violence and fear in the name of Islam and Malay supremacy.

By Jacqueline Ann Surin, The Nut Graph

APPARENTLY, President Barack Obama has done it again. Heaped praises on Malaysia as a role model Muslim nation that is progressive and moderate.

The first time it was reported in Malaysia that the highly-popular US chief executive gave the thumbs up for our tiny Southeast Asian nation was on 27 June 2009 when both Obama and our prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, first spoke on the phone. According to Najib, Obama told him during their 20-minute conversation: “You should be proud of Malaysia because you are a modern, progressive Muslim country, able to manage a multiethnic and multi-religious society.” In late September 2009, Najib again announced that the Obama administration regarded Malaysia as a “progressive and moderate Islamic nation”.

My question is, should we believe any of it?

Tumpang glamour

There is no doubt that any endorsement by Obama of the Najib administration has the powerful impact of legitimising and creating credibility for our prime minister. Obama is a brand unto himself. His public appeal is so strong that his successful campaign for the White House was celebrated all over the world.

So, who wouldn’t want to tumpang glamour on Obama?

But a healthy dollop of scepticism is always useful if citizens — whether in Malaysia or in the US — are to contribute to vibrant democracies.

Firstly, what really do we expect world leaders to say to each other in the public realm? During the phone conversation in June, Najib announced that Obama had “graciously acknowledged my ability to serve as Prime Minister based on my extensive background in the public service”.

Could Obama have been critical of Najib as Malaysia’s new prime minister? From a diplomatic perspective, that would have been a serious faux pas. Even if privately Obama had his misgivings about Najib because of the damaging international reports about the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu, he would have kept it to himself.