On-the-way-out Najib turning to doctored photos to DECEIVE nation & Umno rivals?

Written by  Maria Begum, Malaysia Chronicle

It gets clearer by the day how precarious Prime Minister Najib Razak’s position in his own UMNO party is. His latest scrape is an allegedly doctored photo to give the impression that popular support for his leadership is much higher than it really was.

And despite hasty denials by the national news agency Bernama that the photo had been altered, critics believe the incident will boomerang and make already upset colleagues in Umno even more “hopping mad” at the latest attempt to pull wool over their eyes.

“Najib’s weakest point is his vanity. Some say this is also encouraged by his wife Rosmah Mansor and that’s why during the Najib administration, the PM’s Office has spent an unprecedented bomb on public relations and image consultants to give a false image of themselves. Whether it’s to boost their ego or to show off to the country, I think some of these foreign consultants have been found out, disgraced and now under investigation in their own countries,” PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng told Malaysia Chronicle.

“Now, Najib has been accused of using Bernama to doctor the Raya picture of 100,000 people going to his open house. Of course, this will make the Umno warlords even more hopping mad. For me, I think it is crazy to use such tactics. He would only be making himself out to be like the North Korean Kims. Very fake and very ‘Bolehland’.”

Since assuming the premiership in April 2009, Najib has paid hundreds of millions of ringgit to media firms including the Shin Bet-linked APCO and the disgraced UK FBC Media. Most recently, the Malaysian PM was embarrassed when pro-Israel columnist Joshua Trevino was sacked by the Guardian for quoting Najib without disclosing that he had been “a consultant for an agency retained by Malaysian business interests and ran a website called Malaysia Matters”.

Civil war breaks out in Umno

Indeed, the picture does look suspiciously like it has been ‘massaged’. An alert Opposition leader had pointed this out soon after it was splashed all over the newspapers. It is also telling that at the same time, the headlines had also screamed only some 10,000 had attended the open house of Najib’s deputy Muhyiddin Yassin.

That had added to the talk that a simmering leadership tussle within Umno, the country’s largest political party and the boss of the ruling BN coalition, was erupting into the open. And the catalyst? Najib’s delaying of the 13th general election.

Najib and his influential wife Rosmah are both seen as favoring elections next year when the BN’s 5-year mandate will expire.

But Muhyiddin, former premier Mahathir Mohamad and other UMNO ‘warlords’ have been badgering for earlier polls, with Muhyiddin’s supporters openly calling for GE13 to be as early as this month itself. Speculation has swirled that to show their displeasure, posters had suddenly appeared in many strategic parts of Johor, which is Muhyiddin’s homestate, agitating for the Pagoh MP to replace Najib as Umno president and consequently prime minister.

The posters show Muhyiddin with Malaysian flag in the background and the wording ‘Kami Mahu Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin Sebagai PM Sebelum PRU 13′ (We want Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as Prime Minister before the 13th general election) as well as ‘Selamatkan Barisan Nasional’ (Save the BN).

“They blame Najib for delaying the general election until now when it is obvious BN has lost its edge and all of them will have to struggle and fight on the ground to defend their seats,” Jui Meng had said.

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Meanwhile, in denying the picture was doctored, Bernama Editor-in-Chief Yong Soo Heong however admitted the photographer had used his ‘creativity’ in capturing the picture of an ‘adoring’ mass surging forward towards the first couple, whose true popularity is in much doubt despite attempts by the government-controlled media to portray them as being ‘beloved’ by the nation.

“Time is of the essence for a professional and responsible news organisation like Bernama and we do not have the time to indulge in irrational endeavours,” Bernama reported Yong as saying.

According to Yong, the photo unit had just been equipped with modern and state-of-the-art cameras and lenses this year. The photographer, Harry Salzman Abu Bakar had taken pictures of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, British Prime Minister David Cameron and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in the past without any problems.

In the this instance, Salzman had used his creativity to depict the large crowd of well-wishers, added Yong.

“One cannot deny that Datuk Seri Najib is a crowd-puller, not just at his own Aidilfitri open house but at other public events as well, because pictures and video footages from other news organisations can also testify to that,” said Yong.

Malaysia Chronicle