This is the full transcript of Abdul Razak Baginda’s question and answer session during the press conference held at Hotel Maya, Kuala Lumpur, on Thursday.
Q. Have you contacted (Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib (Tun Razak) since your release?
A. To be honest I have not and neither has he (contacted me). None whatsoever.
I have not met him, I have not seen him, spoken to him, SMS-ed him or e-mailed him. I have not been in touch with him at all.
Q. Describe your relationship with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
A. The press, the media, the bloggers and the man on the street have described my relationship with Najib in all forms – from a close aide, a close friend, an associate and, adviser. In jest, I would say why don’t you take a pick.
My relationship with Datuk Seri Najib has evolved over the years. Obviously, there was a professional relationship and this goes back as early as the 1990s.
I have known him professionally and I have also gotten to know him personally.
Q. Your comment on (private detective) P. Balasubramaniam and his statutory declaration?
A. I have been interviewed by the police after my release. The whole issue of the SD by Bala is now under police investigation. I have been interviewed and I have given full cooperation to the police.
What I say today is what I told the police, that Najib never met the deceased.
Q. How do you know Najib did not meet (Mongolian murder victim) Altantuya (Shaariibuu)?
A. (smiled, looked at lawyers, paused, then said). It’s like asking me you know … I know okay … I know.
Q. Will you still be working with Datuk Seri Najib?
A. I never had any formal relationship with Najib. At one point someone described me as his political secretary. I have never held any official positions with the DPM. I have my own plans and I will pursue my own plans.
Q. What are your immediate plans?
A. I will be going back to the UK to do my doctorate. I was once a student at Oxford University. On Sept 28, 2006, about two weeks before my arrest, I submitted my doctoral dissertation to Oxford University, having studied at Trinity College for a number of years. So when I was arrested, the university placed my dissertation on hold. So now that I am released, I informed the university that I can be examined so I’m going back to be examined. What that entails is that my examiners will read my dissertation and subsequently interview me. Insya Allah I hope to get a doctorate some time early next year.
Q. Why were you implicated in the case?
A (whispered with lawyers). You must appreciate one thing, that the main trial is on and there is also the civil proceeding. The deceased’s family has taken a civil suit against the Government of Malaysia, myself and the two other accused. So I am not at the liberty to elaborate. I hope you can appreciate that.
Q. Why did you change lawyers at the beginning?
A. I am flanked by lawyers. 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. I don’t think it is appropriate. I hope you can appreciate that.
Q. What is your reaction to the prosecution’s decision not to appeal your acquittal and why did you cancel your previous press conference?
A. I can’t comment on why they did not appeal but I can comment the reason why I cancelled the last press conference.
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 that I really wasn’t ready.
You really have to be in prison for two years to find out what I am saying. My mind is incoherent. It is jumping from one point to another point. I keep losing things.
Because in prison, you can’t lose things, because you don’t have many things to begin with and the space is so limited that you cant really lose things.
These days, I lose my glasses. I can’t find my glasses. Now that my daughter has gone back to the UK, I have one less person to look for things for me.
Q. How well did you know the deceased?
A. Let me talk about the relationship with the deceased. To me, of course there is a court proceeding, but I just want to make this statement. The person has died and that has not been the basis of any court proceeding so let the person rest in peace.
There is no point for me to say this and that. I know there are a lot of lies being spread about this and that.
One example, is from a reputable media, let’s not mention who. It stated that I met her in a party. Where did that come from? Let’s leave it at that. (whispers between him and lawyers)
Q. On the SMS between Najib and his former lawyer?
A. I was in prison then. I was in police remand or Sungai Buloh. I can’t remember, it was very early on. Sorry, alleged SMS because it wasn’t proven. Why don’t you be more critical and not take it at face value? Are you planning to be in touch with Najib?
(laughs) Let me put it this way. I have my immediate plans and that is my immediate concern.
Q. Some reports said you would leave the country and not return. Is this true?
A. Why should I run away? I am innocent and have been acquitted by the courts. I want to stay here. This is my home and I will be back here.
You will see me in a couple of months’ time. I just want to get my doctorate and that’s it unless I get a cushy job like the Prime Minister of UK.
Q. You mentioned that you are speaking up because you did not want the liars to prevail. Can you elaborate?
A. I don’t want to be specific but in the last two years, I didn’t realise the extent of the rich or the so called borderless world, the Internet world and how bloggers have really taken almost centre stage.
The last one or two weeks, I checked with some of my non-Malaysian friends abroad, in the UK. They said to me there was a period in the British society when bloggers ran supreme but after a while everyone realised bloggers are bloggers.
I can start a blog and say anything to infinity. So he said to me the phase will go away after a while.
People will say I can be a blogger, my daughter or even the taxi man can be a blogger if he writes well and he can manufacture facts. So to me, they are out there.
Q. Are you going to take action against some media over their reports?
A. I never actually made any comment until today. I kept silent from the day I was arrested until today so I never said a word. So I never actually said I would take legal action. That’s all I want to say for the time being.
Q. What about the purported photograph of you and Altantuya?
A. When I was in Sungai Buloh, I was investigated by the (Malaysian Communications and) Multimedia Commission and I was shown the photograph. You must be a real idiot or moron to believe the photograph was authentic. To begin with, the girl was not even the deceased. If any of you believe the photo, you guys have been taken for a ride.
Q. On the purported deals connected to Altantuya including the (Scorpene) submarine deal?
A. My press conference today is specifically about what I went through over the last two years. I am aware of the insinuations, all sorts of stories about the linkage and all that. Let me tell you now. There is no linkage whatsoever. Let me tell you of the time frame. That is why in my statement I said I am shocked and appalled by the extent of lies.
There were linkages made between the deceased and some deals. I’m sure all are aware but everyone is lazy these days, no one checked their facts.
The purported deal was signed in June 2002. I first met the deceased around November/December 2004. This is an almost two year lapse so I fail to see the connection but yet it still went on and on. These are the malicious lies I have been mentioning in my earlier statement.
Q. What is your relationship with the two accused, (Kpl) Sirul (Azhar Umar) and (C/Insp) Azilah (Hadri)?
A. I can’t comment on that at all. Sorry. My lawyers are jumping at me and said I can’t say any word on that. I can’t comment. Sorry.
Q. Do you know where (the private detective) Bala is?
A. Sorry, I can’t comment on that. I don’t know. I can’t comment because it is under police investigation.
Q. What is the most important lesson you have learnt through this ordeal?
A. Give me three hours. Let me say this. I will be frank. When you are down, you are basically alone. I still have my family but when you are down, you are basically alone. There are many lessons but I can’t sit down and tell all.
Q. Do you feel betrayed?
A. It’s not betrayal. I think it is human nature. If I reflect back, I too may have shied away from someone who was in trouble. Maybe this is a way God wants to remind me hey you did that to others so now it’s payback time for others unto me. So it’s quite natural for people to shy away. But there is no sense of betrayal whatsoever.
Q. On looking distressed in court and your outburst?
A. My wife was distressed. She only saw me in prison once a week. There was no physical contact. There is a glass window and we speak through a ‘phone.’
When I first met them, it was June 2007 and that was the first time I could physically touch them for almost six months.
I can appreciate my wife’s distressful state and obviously I don’t want to be a PM. I got no comment on that.
It is difficult for anyone to feel how I felt when a case was postponed, the frustrations, the build up. I think it is different when one is innocent. And I am innocent so I felt things were dragging so that’s just frustration that’s all.
Q. Will you be writing a book about your experiences?
A. If I say yes, you will be haunting me about when it is coming out. My first plan is to get a doctorate, this has been on hold and I just want to get it.
Q. During the trial, you were often seen smiling but the other two accused constantly covered their faces. Did you know that you were going to be released?
A. I am innocent and at some point I said, God willing, I will be released because I am innocent. At some point, I knew I was going to be released because I cannot imagine an innocent man being found guilty. I was of course worried as people were talking about pandering to the public, media. Then I realised these are two different things. I went through the justice system. People tend to forget I spent 22 months in jail. To me, I’m innocent so I will be released at some point.
The family is the single most important alongside God. I became close to Allah. I regard myself quite lucky because in a person’s life at some point, I always believe something bad is going to happen to you and God has given me a better option than death.
People can die, from a heart attack or whatever. But God has given me imprisonment and that was a better option than death as I have a chance to reflect on life and that helped me significantly.
And my fellow friends/inmates helped me through inside.
It is amazing how human beings adopt to their circumstances quickly and also it is a question of no option. You really have to adapt quickly.
Until today, I am still amazed how I could survive 22 months but I did.
Q. Will you contact Altantuya’s father and family?
A. I expressed publicly my statement of deepest sympathy to the family. I never knew the family of the deceased.
Q. Was Najib aware of your problem with the deceased?
A. None whatsoever.
Q. But you were his close aide?
A. I’m just a friend with personal contact with him. A close aide is someone who holds an official position.
Najib as DPM and Pak Lah as PM have their own assistants and aides. So I am not an aide. Let’s leave it at a personal level instead of asking whether or not he contacted me.
Q. How have the last three weeks been?
A. I have been eating a lot, it is revenge time. I think I have put on a lot of weight.
For 22 months, I did not do anything and now suddenly for three weeks I have to do so many things.
In prison, everything is regimented and determined for you. Your time is outlined. This is what you eat, this is when you sleep.
So when I’m out, suddenly I think I don’t have much time. Then I realise I do have time so I’m adjusting myself. Not too well I’m afraid. I’m still eating a lot.
I have been reading a lot in prison. I started reading a lot of biographies. Last year, my focus was on the Middle East and books on Islam. I wanted to know more about the Prophet … read a lot about political Islam. I read things which I didn’t have time to read when I was outside.
Q. Where did you meet (Altantuya)?
A. I don’t want to go there. There is a death and it doesn’t make any difference where I met her. All I want to say in my statement is that Datuk Seri Najib never met the woman. From here, whoever said whatever, they are all lies.
Q. Are you a victim of a political game?
A. I know there has been a lot of speculation about that. I don’t sense that at all. What has happened to me simply is that I was caught in the system, you know and I went through the system.
I am glad to say that I survived the system as my wife always tell and reminds me that the system put you in, the system will get you out. So I went through the system.
Q. If you were in Shaariibuu’s (Altantuya’s father) position, would you think the verdict was fair?
A. I can’t be in his position or in someone else’s position. I can’t think what he is thinking or what you are thinking. I can’t comment on that. It’s unfair for me to comment on that.
Q. On Shaariibuu’s intention to go to the International Court of Justice to seek justice?
A. He can do whatever he wants to do. I can do whatever. You can do whatever you want to do. He is free to do all that.
Q. Is your reputation unjustly damaged? And how are you going to repair it?
A. Thank you very much. I didn’t realise I had a reputation to protect before.
I would like to close this chapter of my life and open another one. The sooner I get on with my life, the better. I just want to move forward.
Q. Some quarters felt, you should be implicated. What do you say about this?
A. When you say public opinion, I wonder who you have in mind. When you talk about people’s power, in Thailand for instance, people are against the government. One hundred thousand or 500,0000, the media blows it out of proportion. But is that democracy? If we talk about 500 people going out to the streets as opposed to 100 million, does that reflect democracy? If I have money and pay people RM10 each and get 100,000 to protest against the government, is that public opinion? Blimey, that’s not public opinion but manipulation.
You talk about public opinion as if there is a coherent, consistent consensus. I don’t think there is a consensus and I don’t want to pander on the so-called public opinion. Can a blogger reflect public opinion? As Malaysian society develops, we should question and not descend. If we descend to a level where a taxi driver, for example, someone who does not know the facts writes and that becomes public opinion, then I feel sorry for society. Just one or two individuals or one or two bloggers can form public opinion? Give me a break.
Q. Are you blaming bloggers for what happened to you? Particularly (Malaysia Today editor) Raja Petra Kamarudin?
A. No. But the whole idea that bloggers or so-called opinion makers can form an opinion and that becomes the truth; that worries me if bloggers become the source of truth. Then the society is in trouble. Can you imagine enemies of the state using blogs to erode confidence? You are talking about something more sinister. We are in trouble if concerted efforts are made towards the state, government and people. In more developed countries, they have gone through this phase we are experiencing and after a while they say not to worry about them.
Q. Do you think the speculation will stop after this press conference?
A. There will be twists and turns even with my press conference today. Even if I held this tape recorder in the air like what I’m doing now, someone will say Razak Baginda held a gun. I can’t be responsible for that. I just want to tell the truth.
Q. Would you urge the police to find out who was really behind Altantuya’s death, or if there was an alleged ‘order’ behind the actions of the two accused?
A. I can’t comment on that.
Q. How do you see Najib today? As future PM.
A. I have known him for quite a while. He will make a good Prime Minister. He is a well-read person. I used to give him books. We used to exchange books. He is well-tuned to what’s going on in the world. Intellectually, in terms of experience, he has got all that.
Q. Would you serve under Najib if he became Prime Minister?
A. I am very happy with my freedom. I don’t want to be tied down to any appointment.
Q. Was there political interference to set you free, did the alleged SMS play a part?
A. I was charged, I went to prison. I waited for the trial, the 151-day trial. I did not see my family. I did not touch them until the trial started. I went through all that. How can there be any interference if I went through all that and spent 22 months in jail? Come on.
Q. How is the people’s reaction on the street when they see you? Were you congratulated or looked at weirdly?
A. A lot of people actually came up to me and wished me the best. Some, even total strangers, said they were happy for me that I was out. I thought I would be frowned upon. I thought I was going to be a leper. But it was to the contrary.
Q. More on bloggers (last statement)
A. More often bloggers don’t base their writing on facts but rather more on hearsay. This person told me this, that person told me that, this little bird told me this.. Rather than I was there, I saw this, I did this. Let us be more critical and not accept things verbatim. If you don’t then you can also write the same thing and tell lies. I can tell you how easy it is to tell lies on the Internet.