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Surviving the Altantuya murder trial

KUALA LUMPUR, 20 Nov 2008: Former political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda is certain that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor never met murdered Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Abdul Razak, who was acquitted of abetting in Altantuya’s murder by explosives, also said he believed Najib would make a good prime minister.

Razak Baginda
“Obviously I don’t want to be prime minister,” says Razak

Speaking to reporters for the first time since he was released on 31 Oct 2008, Abdul Razak described Najib as a “personal friend”, adding he had never been Najib’s official aide.

He also appealed to the public to stop spreading lies about and accusations against Najib and Rosmah, adding that Malaysians should be more critical for example of blogs.

“Bloggers in general do not base their writings on facts,” he said.

Abdul Razak said his family and God gave him strength during his detention and trial.

“Obviously, I became closer to Allah. God gave me imprisonment and that was a better option than death simply because I had a chance to reflect on my life,” he said.

“Until today, I’m still amazed that I could survive 22 months but I said, Alhamdullilah, I survived.”

Abdul Razak, who was present with his parents, brother and sister, was friendly and jovial. He read out a two-paged statement before answering questions from the media in a 48-minute press conference.

Excerpts below:

Q: Have you been in contact with Najib after your release?

Abdul Razak: To be honest, I have not.

How would you describe your relationship with Najib?

The press, the media, bloggers and the man on the street have described my relationship with Najib in all forms — a close aide, a close friend, an associate, an advisor — my relationship with Datuk Seri Najib has evolved over the years.

Obviously, it was a professional relationship and this goes back as early as the 1990s. Having known him professionally, I also got to know him personally.

Are you saying that Balasubramaniam’s statutory declarations were lies?

As you know, the whole issue of the two statutory declarations by Bala, (are) now under police investigation. I have given (my) full cooperation to the police. I have been interviewed by the police after my release. What I’ve said today to all of you is what I told the police, that Datuk Najib never met the deceased.

Razak Baginda consulting lawyer before answering a question
Lawyer Avtaran Singh advising Abdul Razak before he
answered a question from the floor.
How do you know?

How do I know? (Pause) I know, okay? I know!

How was (it like) working with Datuk Seri Najib?

I’ve never had a formal relationship with Najib. At one point, someone described me as his political secretary. I’ve never held any official position. So, I have my own plans and I will pursue my own plans.

Can you elaborate on your plans?

I’m going back to the United Kingdom for a simple reason. Many of you may not be aware that I was a student at Oxford. On 28 Sept 2006, about two weeks before I was arrested, I actually submitted my doctorate dissertation to University of Oxford, having studied at the Trinity College of Oxford for a number of years.

So when I was arrested, the university placed my dissertation on hold. So now that I’m released, I have informed the university that I can now be examined, so I’m going back to basically be examined. What entails is that my examiners will have to read the dissertation and subsequently interview me for my Viva. Insyallah, I should get my doctorate early next year.    

Why was there a change of lawyers (representing Abdul Razak)?

In the beginning? Well, I’m flanked by lawyers and the legal profession has their own ethics and I don’t think I should reveal any reason why, whether I like a person’s face or I don’t like a person’s face, so I don’t think — I hope you can appreciate that.

The prosecution did not appeal against your release. Can you comment on it?

I can’t comment on why they did not appeal but I certainly can comment on the reason why I cancelled (his first press conference that was scheduled on 6 Nov), it has nothing to do with my appeal or whatever.

I was quite confident when I was released that I could face the outside world, especially the press but after a few days, I found myself to be not ready. Really, not ready.

You have to be in prison for two years to find out what I’m saying. My mind is incoherent, it’s jumping from one point to another point. I keep losing things because in prison you can’t lose things because, one, you don’t have many things to begin with. And two, the space is so limited that you really can’t lose anything. So these days, I lose my glasses, I can’t find them. And now that my daughter has gone back to the UK, I have one person less to look for things. So to be frank with you, (cancelling the first press conference) had nothing to do with the appeal.

How much do you know the deceased, and what do you make of the exchange of SMSes between Najib and lawyer (Datuk) Mohd Shafee (Abdullah)?

Let me just talk about the relationship with the deceased. To me, there is a court proceeding but I just want to make a statement that a person has died. And that has not been the basis of any court proceeding, so let the person rest in peace. There’s no point for me to say this, that and the other and I know there’s a lot of lies that are being spread about this and that.

Let me give you one example of a lie, and this actually came from a very reputable media, let’s not mention who, I just want to illustrate my point. It stated that I met her in a party. I was wondering where [that came] from? Let’s just leave it at that.

On the SMSes between Datuk Seri Najib and my former lawyer, I was in prison then.

Have you contacted Datuk Seri Najib?

Well, that was the first question asked. I’ve not met him, I’ve not seen him, I’ve not spoken to him, I’ve not SMSed him…anything else…I’ve not emailed him, I’ve not…that’s it. I’ve not been in touch with him at all.

Are you planning to be in touch with him?

(Chuckles) Well, let me put it this way. I’ve got my immediate plans and that’s my immediate concern.

What about your trip to the UK? There have been rumours that you might just go to the UK, settle and not come back.

Let me say this to you. Why the hell should I run away? I’m innocent! I’ve been acquitted by the court, I want to stay here, this is my home and I’ll be back here. You’ll see me in a couple of months. I just want to get my doctorate, that’s it. Unless of course I get a cushy job, you know, like the Prime Minister of United Kingdom, for example. Of course I’ll come back.

Razak Baginda
“If bloggers can become the source of truth, then we are
in trouble”
Your statement just now mentioned that the liars are out there scot-free. Can you elaborate on that?

I don’t want to be specific. All I want to say is, for the last two years, I didn’t realise the extent of the so-called borderless world or the internet world. Our bloggers have really taken almost centre-stage. In the last one or two weeks, I checked with some friends abroad, non-Malaysians in the United Kingdom. They said to me there was a period in British society where the bloggers were supreme. After a while, everyone realised that bloggers are bloggers. I can start a blog and I can say anything with impunity. So he said to me, the fleas will just go away. After a while, people will say “Bloggers, my God! I can be a blogger. My daughter or a taxi man can be a blogger if he can write well, and that’s it. And he can manufacture facts.”

Some people say that you will try to take action against certain media after you’re released.

I never actually made any comment, whatsoever, until today. I’ve kept silent from the day I was arrested until today. I’ve never said a word. So I never actually said I was going to take any legal action. That’s all I want to say for the time being.

On the doctored photograph

When I was in Sungai Buloh, I was actually investigated by the Multimedia Commission and I was shown a photograph. And you must be a real idiot or moron to believe that the photograph is authentic. To begin with, the girl was not even the deceased. So if any of you believed the photograph, oh, you guys have been taken for a ride.

There were rumours about you being involved in a deal with Altantuya. Do you want to comment on that?

Let me put it this way, my press conference today is specially about what I’ve gone through the last two years. I’m aware of insinuations, all sorts of stories of the linkage and all that. Let me tell you that there’s no linkage whatsoever.

I’d also like to tell you about the time frame. That’s why in my statement I said I’m shocked and I’m appalled by the extent of lies. There were linkages made between the deceased and some deals, I’m sure all of you are aware about. But everyone’s lazy these days because no one checked the facts.

The deal, the purported deal, was signed in June 2002. I first met the deceased November or December 2004. That’s almost, almost a two-year lapse. So I just fail to see the connection but yet it still went on and on and on. These are the liars, these are the lies that I mentioned in my statement.

Would you know where Balasubramaniam is or would you assist your lawyers to look for him?

I can’t comment on that because I don’t know. I just cannot comment because it’s under police investigation at the moment.

What lessons did you learn from this episode?

Do you have three hours with me today? (Laughs) Let me put it this way. I’ll be very frank with all of you. When you are down, you are basically alone. I mean I had my family but basically when you’re down, you’re on your own. That’s a shock to me. We all know that but when it happens to you, you’ll realise it is true. There are many lessons but I can’t really tell you the lessons.

Would you say you were betrayed by your friends?

It’s not a question of betrayal. It’s just that I think it’s human nature. If I reflect back, I too may have shied away from someone who was in trouble. This is the way that God wants to remind me that “Hey, you did that to others, so now it’s payback time.” So I think it’s quite natural for people to shy away but there’s no sense of betrayal or whatever.

Why was there an outburst (in court), when you were first arrested, by your wife that you don’t want to be the next prime minister?

To begin with, my wife was quite distressed. You tend to forget that, well you cannot forget because you would not have experienced this. But in prison, you only see your family once a week. Even that, there’s no physical contact because there is a glass between me and my family, and we spoke through the phone.

When I first met them in June 2007, that was really the first time that I could physically touch them after almost six months. I can appreciate my wife’s distressed state. Besides, obviously I don’t want to be prime minister.

Razak Baginda
“Why the hell should I run away? I’m innocent!”
During the trial, there were times when you mentioned the prime minister’s name. What is your comment about that?

I’ve got no comment. It’s difficult for anyone to feel how I felt when the case was postponed and frustration built up. I think it’s different when one is innocent and I am innocent. So I felt things were dragging, so…just frustrated, that’s all.

Will you write a book about this episode of your life?

The problem is if I say yes, you guys will be hounding me, “When is it coming out? When is it coming out?” (Laughs) My first plan is to get my doctorate and that’s it. That’s my first priority because it’s been on hold. My supervisor just wants me to get it.

Throughout  the trial, you were smiling away when you were escorted by the police. Were you confident that you would be released?

Let me put it this way, I’m innocent! At some point, I said, God willing, Insyallah, I will be released because I’m innocent. So at some point, I knew I was going to be released because I cannot imagine an innocent man can be found guilty. I was of course worried because (of the weight of public opinion and media scrutiny) …then I realised that there are two different things. I went through the justice system. Don’t forget that, people tend to forget that I spent 22 months in jail. So to me, I’m innocent, so I will at some point be released.

You said that you’re innocent, so would you try to contact the deceased’s family to apologise?

I’ve said my piece. I never knew the family of the deceased. I’ve already expressed publicly in my statement that I expressed my sympathy to the family, so be it. That’s all I want to say now.

Was Datuk Seri Najib aware of your problem with the victim?

No, none whatsoever.

Why do you think that Datuk Seri Najib has not contacted you..?

(Laughs)

…since you were his aide?

(Laughs) There you go again, official aide. People tend to mix up official and unofficial. I’m just a friend, that’s all. I’ve personal contact with him, that’s all. An aide is someone who holds a position, very reminiscent of the US presidential system. President Barrack Obama today is selecting his so-called team and he would have his special assistants. And Datuk Seri Najib as Deputy Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Prime Minister, they have their own way of assistance. I’m never an aide.

Then as a close friend?

I think that’s something very personal. Can we leave it at the personal level rather than why he didn’t contact me, and why have I not contacted him. That’s a very personal thing.

What have you been doing in the past three weeks since your release?

Let me put it this way. I’ve been eating hell of a lot. It’s revenge time so I think I’ve put on a lot of weight. For nearly two years, I have not done anything really but suddenly for three weeks, I have so many things to do.

And in prison, everything is regimented, this time is meant for this, this is the time to eat, to sleep. So when I’m out, I was sort of thinking that I don’t have much time. Then I realised that I do have time. So I’m adjusting myself, not too well. Still eating a lot.

Did you read a lot when you were in prison?

A lot, a lot. There was a period in prison when I started reading biographies. Then, for the past one year, I focused on the Middle East and also on the books on Islam because I wanted to know more on the Prophet, so I actually read a whole lot of biographies of the Prophet and also the Caliphs. I just wanted to know a bit on the evolution of Islam, at least in the early days. I read a lot about political Islam as well because I know that’s contemporary. I basically read things that I did not have time to read when I was outside.

Where did you meet Altantuya?

I don’t really want to go there. I’ve already said that there was a death. It doesn’t make a difference where I met her. All I wanted to say in my statement is that Datuk Seri Najib never met the woman. So I think you can say that from there, whoever said whatever, they’re all lies.

Do you think you’re a victim of a political game?

I know there is a lot of speculation about that. I went through the system and I’m glad to say that I survived the system. As my wife always tells me, she said the system put you in, the system will get you out. So I went through the system.

If you were in Altantuya’s father’s shoes, what would you do?

I can’t be someone else. I am my own. I can’t think what she thinks, I can’t even think what you are thinking. So I can’t comment on that. It’s unfair for me to comment on that.

Do you think whatever that happened has tarnished your reputation?

(Chuckles) Thank you very much, I didn’t realise I had a reputation to begin with before I entered prison. I constantly remind myself that I’d just like to close one chapter of my life and open a new chapter. So the sooner I get on with my life, the better it is. So I just want to move forward, I don’t want to look back.

When you were in court, there was a lot of public opinion…

When you say public opinion, I really wonder who you have in mind. So many people, when you talk about people’s power. Just look at Thailand, the people is against the government or in the Philippines, you see people are in the streets, 100,000, 500,000. The media blow it out of proportion but hang on, is that democracy? If you’re talking about 500 people going out in the streets as opposed to a population of 100 million, is that reflective of democracy?

If I have money and I pay everyone RM10 and get 100,000 people out in the streets and protest against the government, is that people power? Is that public opinion? That’s not public opinion, that’s just manipulation. So if you say public opinion, you talk about it as if it is a coherent consensus. I don’t think it’s a consensus. So I don’t want to pander to the so-called public opinion and I’d like to ask you, who is the public opinion? Can a blogger reflect a public opinion? I mean if that’s the case, I can have a public opinion. I can run you down and I’ll say this is a public opinion.

So I think I’m being very sceptical and as Malaysian society develops, we should question rather than accept. If we descend to a level where, a taxi driver for instance, someone who doesn’t know the facts, writes and that becomes public opinion, then I feel sorry for society because the society has descended to such a low level. Let’s not talk about Malaysia, let’s talk about the knowledge society, the thinking public but what’s missing at the moment is, just one individual or two individuals can form an opinion and that becomes public. Come on, give me a break.

Are you blaming the bloggers for what has happened to you? Like (Malaysia Today blogger) Raja Petra (Kamarudin)?

I wouldn’t say any blogger, or any particular blogger. I’m just saying that the whole idea that so-called opinion makers can form an opinion…and that becomes the truth. That worries me. If bloggers can become the source of truth, then we are in trouble, this society.

Let’s not forget there’s a global economy at the moment. Can you imagine if enemies of the state use blogs to erode confidence, for example. You’re talking about something that’s far more sinister. What happened to me is just me, really, but just imagine if a concerted effort is made towards the state, the government, the country, and the people, then we are in trouble.

But Malaysia’s not alone. A lot of countries are facing the same problem. But in more developed societies, they have gone through that phase, which we are going through. After a while, they’ll say “Ah, these bloggers, let’s not worry about them.”

Do you expect all the speculations to stop after today?

Even my press statement today, there’ll be twists and turns. So to me, I’ve said so many times…if I hold this up (raised a voice recorder) and I said this is a tape recorder, and then it is reported that Razak held a gun, I can’t really be responsible for that. I’m telling you this is a recorder and if someone says Razak held a gun, held a bottle of water or whiskey or whatever, what can I do? I just want to tell the truth and that’s the truth. If anybody wants to twist and turn, I can’t be responsible. At least, I’ve come out and said my piece.

What do you have to say about Datuk Seri Najib who will be the next prime minister?

I’ve known him for quite a while. I’d just like to say that he’d make a good prime minister. He’s a well-read person. We have had countless (conversations about) books, we would exchange books, I would give him books, he would sometimes recommend books.

So, I think he’s well tuned-in with what’s going on in the world. So I think intellectually, in terms of experience, I think he’s got all that. And I say, I think he’ll make a good prime minister.

Would you consider working for Datuk Seri Najib?

I’m quite happy with my freedom at the moment. I don’t want to be tied up with any appointment whatsoever, not that it’s coming. I’d like to do something more intellectual. That has always been my interest but I’ll probably be more global in nature rather than specific in Malaysia.

Datuk Seri Najib had said the exchange of SMS (with lawyer Mohd Shafee) was true but it was something personal. What is your comment on that?

That’s his statement. But let me say something, why don’t you be more critical of what you’re told and not just take it as face value? When someone says “intervention”, you say “Oh! Intervention.” Everyone jumped on the bandwagon without questioning the validity (of what was said).

For instance, let me remind you that I actually was charged, went to prison, waited for a trial (which) went on for nearly a year, 151 days, I did not see my family, I did not touch them until the (trial) started and even that, it was for a very short period. I went through all that. How can there be any interference if I went through that? God Almighty! Come on!

Do you blame the two special force personnel?

I [have] no comment. I can’t comment on that.

What kind of reaction do you get when you walk on the streets? Do people congratulate you or greet you?

That’s a very interesting question because actually to my surprise, a lot of people came up to me and actually wished me all the best. Some actually said congratulations, some total strangers actually said, “We are happy that you’re out.”

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. I actually thought I was going to be a leper, you know, everyone’s going to shy away from me. Of course, when I walk around, there are people whispering and all that, that’s quite obvious. TNG

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7 Responses to “Surviving the Altantuya murder trial”

  1. mc says:

    Hmmm… pretty obvious answer, isn’t it? Free the mainstream media so there’s less people relying on bloggers for info? Has jail time made him confused or what?

  2. Naydeah says:

    This poor excuse for a man has no imagination or empathy. If he had, he’d know how it’ll feel to be a father losing a daughter.
    I agree with mc. This man probably has no clue why people blogged about major controversial events in the first place.

    “Let me put it this way…” “No comment…”
    There are plenty of reasons we can speculate as to why he’s being so evasive…
    “I know, okay? I know! ”
    That’s one of the lamest lines I’ve heard since I last watched cartoons.

  3. pemerhati says:

    Can we believe this man? Can we believe Najib? Oh God….

  4. greenbottle says:

    I think one of the most compelling reasons why people need and believe in religions, and heaven and hell in the hereafter, is precisely for this kind of situation where you have a distinct feeling that the real culprit(s) may escape the just punishment in this world.

  5. saihamit says:

    How on earth does he know what the hell his boss did or did not do?

    You can answer for your acts but not vouch for someone’s else innocence. Whoever orchestrated the whole drama is just as stupid as the actor.

  6. facereader says:

    I don’t know whether this is at all relevant, but Razak Baginda has very arresting, delectably curved eyebrows …

  7. . says:

    Referring to pix above:
    “If bloggers can become the source of truth, then we are in trouble.”

    We are already in trouble from arus perdana media.


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