In 1985 Pulitzer prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman wrote the book The March of Folly which was a fascinating study of why leaders from Troy to Vietnam acted against their own self-interest.
If she were updating the book today, Unspun thinks she would certainly consider not only adding Malaysian Premier Najib Razak but perhaps promote him to the front line of the phalanx of marchers.
Najib’s march, where his public image was concerned, actually began in 2009 when, critical bloggers began to expose his foibles and questioned his involvement in the Alantuya affair, where a Mongolian model was killed by the Premier’s bodyguards and then her body was disposed using C4 explosives.
There were rumours — all unproven in a court of law controlled by the Malaysian government – that she was somehow romantically involved with Najib and the bodyguards acted under orders from the highest leadership in the land.
Assailed by bloggers, who enjoyed a freedom of expression that the legacy press in Malaysia did not have, Najib made the decision of employ US lobbying and communications firm APCO to pull him out of the mess.
It was a strange choice because Najib’s problems had nothing to do with communications but everything to do with his character, his evasiveness and the decisions he was unwilling or unable to make. He was virtually un-PRable but the fat fees he offered APCO prompted the company to embark on a March of Folly of its own: It accepted the appointment.
Critics, including Unspun (see link here) felt that it was an expensive exercise in futility and after many months and millions of taxpayer’s dollars were spent, APCO achieved nothing and its contract was not renewed.
That didn’t deter Najib to forge on in his march though. In spite of an absence of results he apparently retained the head of APCO Malaysia, a certain Ralph Stadlen to continue advising him. Consistent with the deliverables of APCO, the results of Stadlen’s work was not apparent to anyone. Najib’s reputation continued to plummet, especially when the 1MDB scandal broke.
The government, in the story below, has denied that it is paying for Mr Stadlen’s elusive services and claims no knowledge of his existence. This is all an old trick. Instead of paying him from official coffers, they must have got a crony to pay him from their own corporate coffers in return for favours. At any rate Mr Stadlen must cost a bomb, considering his rather flamboyant and public lifestyle (see here).
Now Najib has taken another step forward in his good march. Besieged by crumbling popular support even within his own political party Umno and stinging from the potshots fired by former premier Tun Mahathir Mohamad has taken to appointing former adman Lim Kok Wing to address his reputational concerns.
The tragedy here is that everyone knows that Lim Kok Wing, talented as he is, cannot save nab from his deeds, himself and his wife. Yet the March of Folly is so compelling that Najib is trying once again to classify his problems as communications-based and outsource it to a communications expert.
But the intriguing question here is what Lim to embark on his own March of Folly? Why when he has no apparent need for the money, take on a job with impossible odds – the pundits are now counting the days before Najib exits the national stage. Why take on a mission impossible and in the process tarnish his own image when Najib ultimately falls? Did Najib offer him an irresistible deal? Did Najib blackmail him into taking on the job? Or is Lim such an adventurer that he would march on where even angles fear to tread?
Who has the answer out there?
Advertising man Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing, who has run Barisan Nasional’s election campaigns, is Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s new public campaign coordinator in a charm offensive to win over Malaysians and shore up the prime minister’s flagging popularity.
Lim rode high during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s administration, but the former prime minister is now Najib’s harshest critic.
It was learnt that Lim, who has been appointed “special programme coordinator”, has drawn up plans for Najib to go nationwide to gather support and listen to the complaints from the people.
Lim, who founded the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, will report directly to the Prime Minister’s Office which already has a string of advisors.
The 69-year-old, who set up Malaysia’s first local advertising agency, has been involved in election campaigns for almost four decades.
In 1994, Lim, on recommendation by Dr Mahathir, was tasked by the late Nelson Mandela in South Africa’s first free elections, giving his African National Congress (ANC) the slogan, “A Better Life for All”.
He also conceptualised and ran Putrajaya’s “Tak Nak” anti-smoking campaign and promoted the “Rakan Muda” and “One Heart, One Nation” programmes.
This latest appointment came months after Lim was first appointed as “Goodwill Ambassador” in the Prime Minister’s Department in a Tolerance Day celebration that his university hosted in November last year.
Now, Lim has to run a fully political campaign for the embattled Najib against Dr Mahathir who has openly asked the prime minister to step down over the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
In 1975, Lim started Malaysia’s first local advertising firm and went on to start Limkokwing Institute of Creative Technology in 1991, before it became a private university in 2000.
He also sits on the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) consultation and corruption prevention panel.
Lim now joins the list of four official advisors to Najib – Datuk Seri Dr Abdullah Md Zin, Datuk Johari Baharum, Tan Sri Rais Yatim and Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
It was also recently reported that public relations firm Apco Malaysia’s Paul Stadlen, had also served in the prime minister’s National Communications Team.
The status of Stadlen’s alleged role in the government remains unclear with Putrajaya saying it did not pay any wages to the former Apco Malaysia boss.
“To date, the government did not pay any salary to Paul Stadlen,” Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim told PAS’s Hanipa Maidin in a written reply in Parliament on Wednesday.
Hanipa had asked about the amount paid to Stadlen who was purportedly a member of the communication team at the Prime Minister’s Office.
However, the reply was silent on whether Stadlen was part of the team. – May 22, 2015.