Malaysia

As reforms stall, Pakatan mocks Najib for paid gloss

Najib (right) is accused of paying to have his image buffed by global media. — Reuters picNajib (right) is accused of paying to have his image buffed by global media. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, Aug 5 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) has mocked Datuk Seri Najib Razak for allegedly spending RM57.7 million to boost his international image while his administration’s domestic reforms struggle to find traction.

Whistleblower site Sarawak Report alleged that the Barisan Nasional (BN) federal and Sarawak governments paid the sum to British firm FBC Media, allegations that have resulted in both CNBC and BBC suspending programmes produced by the firm led by media giant Alan Friedman and celebrity news anchor John Defterios.

“Without this PR campaign, it will all unravel. That is why the prime minister is making cuts to the budget everywhere but spending millions on this (media campaign).

“He should be spending the money on making progress on the transformation plans he has promised, which have so far recorded zero impact,” PKR communications director Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad told The Malaysian Insider.

BBC has said it will suspend programmes produced by FBC Media and investigate the company. This followed swiftly after CNBC confirmed cancelling its flagship FBC-produced World Business.

Award-winning journalist Defterios, who recently interviewed Najib in London for CNN, had been criticised for lobbing softball questions compared to the hard-nosed probing befitting a 25-year veteran of his standing in financial news global affairs, raising questions over a possible conflict of interest.

“Clearly the millions paid to yet another [public relations] company is another irresponsible abuse of public funds. Another exercise to self-fulfil Datuk Seri Idris Jala’s prophecy of a bankrupt Malaysia.

“Certainly, the list of foreign consultants under the belt of the current Najib administration has created a historical precedence for Malaysia,” said PKR vice president Nurul Izzah Anwar, referring to the RM77 million paid to APCO Worldwide.

The opposition’s attempts to expose Najib in Parliament over the use of public funds in hiring the public relations consultants had resulted in Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim being suspended for six months along with three other senior opposition MPs at the end of last year.

But the previous punishment has not discouraged PR lawmakers from continuing to call for Putrajaya and Sarawak to explain the FBC allegations.

DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang also accused Najib of being more interesting in “image making rather than getting the right mix of policies.”

“The PR campaign rather than actual substance, is a commentary on Najib’s entire administration,” the Ipoh Timur MP said.

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