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Friday, February 4, 2011

APCO’s Client & Paymaster: Is it Malaysian government or is it Najib?

Also was 1 Malaysia originally Najib’s sole creation and idea? Hazlan Zakaria pointed out many things about APCO’s public relation exercise and some public relations for Najib and spouse Rosmah Mansur.

Isreal had its 1 Isreal so too Indonesia has its 1 Indonesia. Indonesia too had APCO as its PR consultant in 2003 simultaneous with employment of APCO. This makes Najib’s claim doubtful.

Hazlan also pointed out some PR exercises polishing up Najib’s image so it is legitimate to question whether these were paid for by the Malaysian government or Najib himself. Hope some MP will ask this in the Parliament.

Article below courtesy of Malaysiakini: ‘Rescuing Najib’:

'Rescuing' Najib

Hazlan Zakaria
Feb 4, 11
5:06pm

10 friends can read this story for free

COMMENT One week after Valentine's Day 1996, an American named Richard Dresner stepped off an Aeroflot flight into what was formerly the Communist heartland of Soviet Russia.
A political consultant who worked on various US politicians' campaigns, including that of former president Bill Clinton, he was a man on a mission.
Together with fellow political consultants Joe Shumate and George Gorton, his mandate was to “rescue” then incumbent Russian president Boris Yeltsin from political disaster.
As related by a Time magazine article on the matter, Dresner's recruitment can be traced back to Russian emigre Felix Braynin, then a 48-year old native of Belarus who had settled in the US in 1979.
Braynin was a self-made, wealthy management consultant who advised Americans about investing in Russia, but maintained his ties with confidants of Yeltsin.
Perturbed by Yeltsin's plummeting ratings and dismal chance at re-election, Braynin contacted First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, in charge of the Russian leader's campaign.
He persuaded Soskovets to hire political consultants from the US to rescue their president from being a one-term wonder.
Events surrounding this was romanticised in the 2003 movie “Spinning Boris” starring Jeff Goldblum, Anthony La Paglia and Liev Schreiber.
From the halls of Russian Czars
The facts of these events were documented in the aptly titled Time article “Rescuing Boris” - on which the movie was based - by the magazine's Moscow correspondent Michael Kramer.
Officials from Russia while admitting that they indeed hired Dresner and his team, downplayed the American's role in the president's campaign.
Historian Andrew Wilson in his essay “Virtual Politics in the ex-Soviet bloc” also rubbished that “spin-doctors or K-Street consultants”, like Dresner, have done much to affect Russian politics.
A major thoroughfare in Washington DC, K Street is where numerous think tanks, lobbyists, and advocacy groups, oft referred to as 'Beltway Bandits' accused of public funds wastage in high-priced government consultancy contracts, are addressed.
Wilson gave credit to “forms of political manipulation more radical, pervasive and corrosive of real democracy than anything attempted by in the west” still practised by post-Soviet states.
Dresner refuted such views, instead proposing that it was he and his team that breathed new life into Yeltsin's flagging campaign, thus changing the landscape of post-Soviet Russian politics.
Denials and aspersions aside, Kramer summed it all up when he concluded: “Democracy triumphed--and along with it came the tools of modern campaigns, including the trickery and slickery Americans know so well.”
To the shores of Malaysia
Just as in the wintry halls of Russian czars a wheezing Boris was rescued 15 years ago, the 'marines' of American politics assailed the tropical shores of Malaysia to rescue a sweating Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
But instead of Dresner and his pals, the 'trickery and slickery' of American politics arrived here in the guise of Paul Geoffrey Stadlen and his team from consultancy firm Apco Worldwide.
Their beachhead, a RM2 company called Mind Teams Sdn Bhd, was contracted into helping the BN-led Malaysian government to 'wag the dog' or influence the electorate - not to mention fashion new 'emperor's robes' for the Najib regime to dress itself in more US-friendly clothing.
Mind Teams later became Apco World Wide Sdn Bhd after signing a lucrative RM77 million contract with the government, curiously signed by Najib's press secretary, not a minister of rank.
The identity of the signatory on behalf of the Malaysian government, while played down by some, is quite important, for reasons that will be touched on later.
An 'unelected' premier
Whoever signed the deal, Najib's desperation and need for political help was perhaps understandable.
NONEThe 'unelected' premier was eager to improve his international standing that was paling before that of his rival, Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, and to help deal with some pesky domestic issues.
Anwar is still the darling of international media and held considerable sway in international politics and economic circles. His personal friendship with world leaders can only serve as a boost as well.
Najib is less well-known than Anwar internationally and has other 'perception' problems.
One major problem for this 1Malaysia prime minister, is his alleged links to the grisly murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.
On the domestic front, Najib, while an elected member of parliament, only became prime minister after he successfully schemed with Umno warlords to 'revolt' against his boss, then premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, mid-term.
Last day of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Najib Abdul Razak takes over as prime minister in PutrajayaCurrent Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, thought of as an Abdullah loyalist, in an 'Et-tu, Brute?' moment led conspirators to 'sheathe their daggers' into the then premier's political career.
The former prime minister's political career thus died - long live the prime minister!

A saintly, smiling Najib looked on and happily took over the reins of power.
But Najib must now deal with the aftermath of internecine Umno warfare. And engage in a public relations exercise with the rest of the world that does not read Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia nor watch government-proxy controlled TV3.
Strategic communications
Apco then took charge of 'strategic communications' for the Malaysian government, helping it diplomatically with the US and the rest of the world and to communicate programs and messages to the public.
Apco's services perhaps helped the BN-led government to suddenly gain standing in parts of the world that Apco, by no accident, maintained offices with and proudly boasts of close ties with host governments.
Not to mention the appearance of glowing editorials, articles and reports from city newspapers and obscure NGOs in said regions. Curiously, these have also gone hand-in-hand with character attacks against Anwar.
NONEIn seeming quid-pro-quo moment, the government rushed through a strategic materials control law, announced to curtail flow of weaponry to terrorists in seeming support of the US war on terror.
US president Barack Obama himself eager perhaps to prove that US policy is being supported by worldwide partners, promptly patted the Najib regime on the back and favoured it with a handshake and an out-of-the-blue phone call, shoring up the Malaysian premier's credibility.
Coincidentally, Indonesia also hired Apco in 2003 in time with similar anti-terror moves by our close neighbour that garnered it several pats in the back from the US.
Najib's 1Malaysia?
Domestically Najib also embarked on an ambitious 1Malaysia campaign, a concept he claimed he envisioned.
But the existence of a One Israel, 1Indonesia and Satu Indonesia campaign throws doubt that continue to dog his claim.
azlanBut since Najib is an honourable man with dishonourable conduct yet unproven, we must for now accept his claim that 1Malaysia is his baby.
After all, such honourable men as he would not lie dishonourably to advance political agendas, would he?
But the fact remains that Apco has contracts, existing or previous, with all three governments, Malaysia, Indonesia and Israel.
Similarities between their separate campaigns can perhaps be explained by the six bullet points of politics that all political consultants know by heart. The holy grail of keeping the electorate happy: healthcare, crime, economy, governance, corruption and food.
Make sure there's food on the table, reduce crime, stamp out corruption and improve healthcare, economy and good governance.
Some, if not all of there were similarly targeted in all three campaigns, but one cannot discount coincidence and similar ploys in the standard political consultancy play book.
Beltway Bandits, Malaysian-style
But whether or not Apco originates any of the 'One' campaigns, it is without doubt that they did provide the governments with expertise and help, perhaps instrumental in those programs.
These included the formation of various think-tank agencies and labs, public funds sinkholes for 'consultancy projects' in the tradition of the 'Beltway Bandits'.
In the same vein, expensive ivy-league analysts and high-brow communications are employed, often led by high-profile corporate figures who have changed hats from turn-around king to spin-king.
Most of these expensive 'labs' were formed to look into how to improve governance instead of actually implementing the improvement.
A case in point is one GLC, set up just to 'look into' implementation of nuclear power despite studies already done by other agencies.
NONEWhat begs the question relates to the surfacing of events and incidents which smacks of public relations stunts whose beneficiary is not the government or the country, but the PM and his spouse.
From boxes found aboard yachts shared with Saudi princes to the sudden visits of Hollywood actors.
The journey then swayed to include overly-flowery PM speeches and rent-a-cats to Twitter and video messages.
This brings to the table the earlier mentioned issue of the contract between Apco and Malaysia being signed by the PM's press secretary instead of a minister of rank.
Who is client, who is paymaster?
The question to ask is: Who is Apco's client? Is it the government, or the PM personally?
This a serious concern, as Apco's contract is paid for by the taxpayers. It is kosher to pay Apco for government PR work, but a no-no to pay it to handle Najib's dirty laundry.
For that he needs to pay for himself or get Umno to pay for him.
Even in the US, consultancy firms are paid to do government public relations, but political consultants for individual politicians must be paid for out of the politician's pocket's or his party's.
NONEThis, out of the many issues pointed out by Anwar's tirade over Apco's hiring, is one that has some grounds to it.
It should not matter that they are Israelis amongst Apco staff, as Anwar often complained, because even he consorted with others of the 'chosen race'.
The irony is, it was Anwar's own globe-trotting antics and constant bad-mouthing of Malaysia in the international press that forced Najib to seek Apco's services.
NONEBut whatever the case, in the end it is the Malaysian public that will foot the final bill for the government think-tanks, labs, and the alleged PR campaigns of a premier and his spouse.
Apco's rescue of Najib brought with it the 'smoke and mirrors' of American politics, birthing a whole new breed of cronies to plaque us and create more 'leakages' in government spending.
Well-heeled 'consultants' as opposed to rough-edged 'contractors' of the Mahathir era.
May Allah save us all.

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