From facing embezzlement charges and then losing his political clout in the 2018 Malaysian general election, former Prime Minister Najib Razak is now trying to re-invent his political career ahead of the next polls in 2023. His pro-Malay party — UMNO — is slowly making a comeback after it won big in state elections in March.
Razak, in an interview to News18, said Malaysia must realign its foreign policy where new centres of power such as India “must be given a very serious consideration”.
On how he intends to bounce back ahead of the general election next year, Razak said he is “hopeful” that there could be a declaration of a mistrial over the corruption charges against him and “that will certainly play into the political arena”.
Q: Over the last few years, India and Malaysia’s relations have become slightly uncomfortable, especially over some remarks made by Malaysia, which India has clearly called its internal affairs. Do you think, the relationship can be mended by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and how do you see it happening?
A: Well! As you know, this issue is very close to my heart. I have always regarded India as the very dear and close friend for a long time and I look at India as one of our strategic allies. A new power centre, a growing power centre and definitely a key strategic partner to Malaysia. Unfortunately, the relationship went awry during the then Prime Minister who dismantled that relationship and it became very frosty instead. I believe that we can reset this relationship and in the coming years to come or months. I believe under the leadership of UMNO, we can certainly put that relationship back on track where it should be and make that relationship one of the key strategic partnerships for Malaysia and for India.
Q: Are there any ideas or strategies, which are being put in place to improve the relationship with India? Can you specify any of the sectors where we are likely to see the upping of the relationship?
A: Well! We believe that the relationship should be multi-faceted. Obviously, trade and economic relations are very important and Malaysia is in the position to export more palm oil to India and at the same time we should make this relationship broad-based, well-diversified. We should all encompass the strength of India, for example in the field of IT, we should leverage from it. As well as encouraging foreign direct investment into Malaysia from India and also stimulate the tourism and tourist flow between Malaysia India and vice versa. So, I think, there’s a lot of potential between our two countries that we should embark upon and I am positive that this relationship will grow and will further strengthen in the time to come.
Q: Even as general elections are about a year, there are corruption proceedings against you in the Supreme Court. Do you think you’ll be able to bounce back politically despite these grave charges?
A: Well, I believe so, there are case precedents that will allow me to contest.
Q: But in this backdrop, a political revival for you is going to be difficult. How are you hopeful of a turnaround?
A: I believe that the charges are politically motivated and the recent revelation by my team of lawyers is very clear and evident. We only had access to them quite recently. That’s why we couldn’t produce these evidence. But it’s very clear as tabled by my lawyer the high court judge himself was conflicted and that is the essence of a fair trial and as well as justice, which not only must be done but seen be done. So, I am hopeful that there could be a declaration of a mistrial and that will certainly play into the political arena and anything that would be positive in the legal sphere will certainly help me politically.
Q: Malaysia, around three years ago, was hoping to create a Muslim world grouping, while some expressed concerns, especially from West Asia, that it could lead to a split among Muslim countries. What is your take on Malaysia’s current position in the global world order?
A: I believe that as the world is changing, Malaysia must reset or realign its foreign policy, and given there is a need for us to realign our foreign policy means that new centres of power, for example, India must be given very serious consideration and we should not do anything that could upset or undermine the unity of the Muslim world. And I believe that should be a centre of position of our foreign policy.