The 5 minute 58 second-exchange in the White House that launched a thousand jokes

Just as there is a saying about “The face that launched a thousand ships”, I would not be surprised if there is saying about “The 5 minute 58 second-exchange in the White House that launched a thousand jokes”.

The Trump-Najib meeting at White House on Sept. 12 was choreographed as a “master propaganda stroke” to position the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak in an unassailable position in the run-up to the 14GE.

It was to knock out the adverse publicity hounding and haunting Najib as a result of the US Department of Justice (DOJ)’s largest kleptocratic suits ever to forfeit US$1.7 billion of 1MDB-linked assets, and coupled with the “go for the jugular” propaganda offensive blaming the Opposition of using the 1MDB issue to undermine investor confidence in the Malaysian economy, it was to place Najib in the elevated and unbeatable position of a world-respected Malaysian leader facing unreasonable attacks by unpatriotic Malaysians!

But within 24 hours, the two-prong propaganda offensive of the Najib strategic communications team came apart, for it was so artificial and lacking in candour and truth that it is not sustainable, and the top-heavy propaganda artifice erected by Najib’s highly-paid media foreign consultants has come tumbling down.

In fact, instead laying all controversies, including the RM55 billion 1MDB and RM2.6 billion donation twin mega scandals to rest, the Najib-Trump meeting at the White House, and in particular the 5 minute-58 second Trump-Najib exchange in the White House, opened up more questions. Here are 10 of these questions:

  1. Who conceived the ideas of the two propaganda offensives – the White House Trump-Najib show and the “go for the jugular” offensive to blame the Opposition for using the 1MDB scandal to undermine investor confidence in the Malaysian economy. Did it come from the highly-paid media consultants and propagandists, and if so, let us have the names.
  2. How much was spent to secure Trump’s invitation to Najib for the meeting at the White House, whether paid from the government coffers or from private funds.
  3. Did Najib and his entourage stay for three days at Trump International Hotel and what was cost of the stay for the Najib entourage – whether in hundreds of thousands of United States dollars?
  4. Was Najib aware that his entourage’s stay at the Trump International Hotel created an ethical problem, whether Trump was violating the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution which forbids presidents from receiving gifts or payments for services rendered from foreign governments while in office; and if so, they still stayed at Trump International Hotel?
  5. Why is the 5 minute 58 second-transcript of the Trump-Najib exchange in the White House Cabinet Room so humiliating for Malaysians, as the tone and tenor of the exchange were not between two equals representing two sovereign nations but like those between a monarch and a chieftain of vassal state bearing gifts, like Bunga Mas, to the sovereign?
  6. Is Najib aware of the ludicrous and comical implications, and the total lack of a sense of scale, when as Malaysian Prime Minister, he declared Malaysia sought to “strengthen the US economy” to make America great again when the comparative 2016 GDP is US$18.569 trillion for USA and US$296 billion for Malaysia only (or USA having a GDP which is 63 times bigger than Malaysia)? How could an economically weaker country “strengthen” the economy of a country which is 63 times bigger than that of Malaysia – when it should be the other way round? Out of the 50 states in USA, 22 states have GDPs larger than Malaysia, headed by three states which are trillion-dollar economies, namely California which has GDP of US$2.6 trillion; Texas US$1.6 trillion; New York US$1.5 trillion. The next three states in USA topping the GDP list are Florida with US$927 billion; Illinois US$792 billion and Pennyslvania US$725 billion.
  7. Najib claimed that Trump’s invitation to the White House was a form of acknowledgement of Malaysia’s status as a rising star. Is he aware that of the 32 foreign leaders from sovereign countries that Trump had invited to the White House so far, 15 rule over nations that either score in the bottom half of the Global Democracy Ranking, which uses metrics to measure the health of 112 democracies in the world, or hail from countries like Saudi Arabia that have no pretense of democratic rule.
  8. Najib’s White House meeting with Trump has not put the 1MBD scandal behind the Malaysian Prime Minister, as the opposite has happened, highlighting the iniquity and monstrosity of the scandal which has made Malaysian overnight into a global kleptocracy. Will Najib finally recognize that the 1MDB scandal will not go way, and that it can only disappear if there is full accountability.
  9. During Najib's meeting with Trump, he had pledged “value propositions” to strengthen the US economy and announced that the Employees Provident Fund will invest between US$3 billion to US$4 billion in US infrastructure project. He also announced Malaysia Airlines' planned purchase of between 33 to 58 aircraft from Boeing, a deal which would be worth more than US$10 billion within five years, and that Khazanah Nasional Berhad will also increase investments in US high-tech companies. Will Najib summon an emergency meeting of Parliament to debate his 5 minute 58-second exchange with Trump in the White House and seek endorsement of his “value propositions” to Trump? Is Najib aware that his “value propositions” constitute a drop in the ocean of USA economy, as the cost of Trump’s infrastructure upgrade is USD5 trillion over the next decade, and that the market capitalization of the New York stock exchange totaled USD27 trillion?
  10. Najib had boasted in his article “Malaysia’s Record of Democracy and Free Speech is Strong” on the eve of his visit to White House. Would he establish his credentials on both fronts by (i) allowing Parliament to have a full debate on the 1MDB scandal and Malaysia as a global kleptocracy; and (ii) declare that he would peacefully and democratically transfer power to Pakatan Harapan if Malaysian voters in 14GE decide on a change of government in Putrajaya and that there would be riots or any declaration of emergency?

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah