NaJib Razak Work the Back Channels
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has revealed in an exclusive interview with CNN how he had to “work the back channels” to secure the release of victims’ bodies and the black boxes of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 out of eastern Ukraine. He said he had learnt his lesson after the disappearance four months earlier of MAS Flight MH370 and knew that the government had to act differently to obtain the desired results.
“If you can imagine,” Najib tells Amanpour, “just four months after MH370 disappeared, and all of a sudden, middle of the night, you know, a message comes across: ‘Look, we’ve just lost a plane; it’s off the radar’.”
“I was in a state of disbelief,” he said.
“I think there were some things that we got right with respect to the first tragedy; some things that, you know, we could have done better, especially on the communication side.”
“But this time, we realised that we needed to act and we acted differently.” It was widely reported that the black boxes and bodies of victims were recovered after Najib negotiated directly with the rebels in Ukraine.
“Sometimes,” he told Amanpour, “you have to work the back channels.”
Najib said he was moved and almost in tears after meeting with the families of the victims which was why he decided on the “rather unconventional” move.
“As the leader of the country I needed to do something; I needed to bring closure to the families.
“Normally as a government, you’d only deal with another government. But here is a movement, a separatist movement, and there was this impasse.
“We couldn’t retrieve the bodies; we couldn’t get our hands on the black boxes; we couldn’t have access to the crash site.
“Dealing with the separatists was something just unprecedented.”
“I’m afraid I had to act alone, because it was very, very sensitive. I had to press the buttons, I had to work the back channels. I had to even conduct the operation itself.
“I was doing it myself, I was literally guiding our team from one checkpoint to another.”
Flight MH17 was carrying 298 passengers and crew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was believed to have been shot down in eastern Ukraine on July 17.Besides the 43 Malaysians on board, the aircraft was also carrying passengers from the Netherlands, Australia, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines, Canada and New Zealand.