The Agus PC disaster: Lessons on how not to handle a crisis

The PC by the former J-Kom DG was Communication 101 on what not to do when facing a crisis – refrain from digging a deeper hole. Also, protect your boss at all costs.

The Star

WHO is Mr H? Can artificial intelligence-assisted apps imitate the Kelantanese accent? Why did Wahab record a WhatsApp video call without audio? Why did Mohammad Agus behave in a manja (affectionate) manner towards a subordinate who had just joined his department? Why did he kiss his phone screen?

Former Community Communications Department (J-Kom) director-general Datuk Dr Mohammad Agus Yusoff and J-Kom assistant officer Abdul Wahab Abdul Kadir Jilani’s press conference on Friday in Kajang, Selangor, raised more questions than it gave answers.

The PC was held to explain a three-minute-long video that has gone viral online showing a man who looks like Mohammad Agus with a younger man whom he calls Wahab and whom he addresses as “sayang” (dear) while coaxing him to engage in sex.

If the real Mohammad Agus thought his press conference would get him out of this nightmarish public relations hole, he was sadly mistaken. In fact, the explanations just dug the hole deeper.

It would be less painful all around if he just faded away.

The PC did answer some questions.

We now know that the two men in the viral video are indeed Mohammad Agus and Abdul Wahab. They admitted it is them but denied that it is their voices. The audio features a voice that sounds like it belongs to Mohammad Agus and speaks in a thick Kelantanese accent – but the men claimed it has been doctored.

We now know who Wahab is. He is a 33-year-old man with four kids and he joined J-Kom on Nov 1.

We were told that the video is a plot to sabotage Mohammad Agus’ career in J-Kom.

We were told that one Mr H – as alleged by Abdul Wahab – is the mastermind of a plot hatched by several high-ranking officials in J-Kom to bring down the DG. Abdul Wahab claimed Mr H promised him a high position in the department if he helped frame Mohammad Agus.

We were told that Mr H instructed Abdul Wahab to record a video conversation with Mohammad Agus to obtain evidence of the DG’s involvement in “immoral and illicit activities”. Abdul Wahab, however, said that the video was only a screen recording without audio.

We now know that Abdul Wahab was fully dressed and was at home when the video was recorded.

We now know that Mohammad Agus treats Abdul Wahab “like a son”. The former J-Kom DG said he saw Abdul Wahab just like his other subordinates and treated them all the same way.

But we don’t know what the actual conversation between the two men is about. Mohammad Agus said he was unwilling to share “cerita dalam katil” (intimate matters).

“Oh God, I’m not going to share details of our intimate chat. “It’s (like) a father having a casual chat with his son. We were talking about a lot of things… he asked me how I was, about my family and my life,” he said.

We don’t know Mr H is.

Mr H is not me, according to Muhamad Hakim Ramlee, a senior official in J-Kom and a PKR member, also known as Ustaz Hakim Ramlee.

Based on Mohammad Agus’ narrative during Friday’s PC, it looks like he was betrayed when the video was leaked even after he had agreed to quit after he was confronted with it.

“On Nov 13, I was called to meet someone. I met that friend, and I was shown a video, which was the chat with Wahab. I was given two choices: quit immediately or to take leave until my contract ended,” he said.

“I decided to compromise to take care of the interest of all parties, so – without questioning the authenticity of the video – I said OK, and since I am planning to go, I go with a soft landing, and I will quit.”

However, despite Mohammad Agus agreeing to quit, someone released the video, it seems.

The former J-Kom DG has warned conspirators that there will be consequences. Mohammad Agus, who said he was considering getting into politics, warned that when there is action, there is always a reaction.

“When people ask me if I’m joining politics, I answer that I was born to be Alex Ferguson. I was not born to be David Beckham. But with the situation like this, I want to play football. Hopefully I can be a good striker,” he said.

Mohammad Agus was hinting that previously, his role was a political adviser (Ferguson was the manager of Manchester United) but now he’ll “play politics”.

From the PC, it looks he won’t go quietly. He will drag whoever plotted his downfall by releasing the video down with him. He’ll dig a hole for this “mastermind”.

But, if we’re talking about public perception of his boss, Anwar, it would be better if Mohammad Agus faded away so that the public would forget about this scandal that the Opposition is trying to connect with Anwar’s past conviction.