By Rahmah Ghazali
FULL REPORT KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has alleged that it was Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin's “old friend” Omar Mustapha who introduced the Malaysian government to US-based public relations firm Apco Worldwide.
He claimed that Khairy and Omar were partners in the consultancy firm, Ethos.
Anwar had revealed this in the Dewan Rakyat today, when he explained his “One Israel and 1Malaysia” jibe.
The opposition leader also furnished documentary evidence to substantiate his allegation that the government had links with the company, which, according to him, masterminded the “One Israel” concept more than a decade ago.
"Omar was reported to have introduced Apco to the government as its consultant, and its (Apco's) adviser was stationed in the Prime Minister's Office after Najib Tun Razak took over as prime minister. But this did not go down well with some of the government officials," he said.
According to him, there were two types of agreement that the Malaysian government signed with Apco on Aug 14 last year, in order to "improve the government's image".
The strange part, he noted, was that the agreement was not inked by any top government officials.
"It bears the signature of the press secretary to the prime minister Tengku Shariffudin Tengku Ahmad, which shows how close Apco is with the prime minister while in normal practice government agreements are signed only by government officers," he claimed.
“This was way before (Najib's) 1Malaysia was announced. Since its (Apco's) duties are to provide “communications support” to the government, Apco may have worked with Najib on 1Malaysia,” he said.
'Apco trying to confuse the dates'
WIth this, he rebutted Apco's statement on March 18 which denied its involvement with the 1Malaysia concept, claiming that the concept had been in effect prior to Apco's appointment.
"But this is only their (Apco's) effort to confuse the actual dates of the (establishment) of the firm with Najib's administration," claimed Anwar, adding that key figures in Apco had previously established themselves in Kuala Lumpur under a local brand name, Mind Teams Sdn Bhd.
"Paul Stadlen, who now heads Apco in Kuala Lumpur, is the same individual who had signed the agreement on behalf of the Mind Teams with the Malaysian government.
"Among the directors is Margery Kraus, Apco's CEO and the most important individual involved with the account in Israel," he said.
Anwar also said that he would furnish proof to Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia to back his claim that Apco was appointed by the Israeli government in 1992.
Previously, the public relations firm had denied having any links to the 'One Israel” concept.
Today marked the end of the seven-day deadline given to Anwar by the government to explain his “One Israel, 1Malaysia” jibe.
The government had considered referring Anwar to the Rights and Privileges Committee, which could see him slapped with a suspension from the House.
However, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz said last week that Anwar would be given a chance to explain his allegation.
'How could we expect Apco to be forthright?'
Elaborating on the alleged deal between Apco and Israel, Anwar said the agreements signed at that material time indicated the role of Apco as a "lobbyist", which would warrant the safeguarding of government secrets made privy to the firm.
"Apco was also involved in the advising of a comprehensive strategic communication programme and must keep confidential all information pertaining to its operations.
"Under these circumstances, how could we reasonably expect Apco to be forthright about its actual role vis-a-vis 1Malaysia as well as the various government campaigns?" he asked.
Anwar also alleged that in Israel, one of Apco's associates was Asero Worldwide, headed by one Doron Bergerbest-Eilon, former head of the Division of Protection and Security of the Israeli Security Agency with the rank of Major General.
He, too, was one of the international advisers to Apco, added the opposition leader.
"Therefore, contracts involving Apco might not necessarily be structured directly between Apco and the government concerned in as much as they could be executed through their associates," he said.
In the case of Israel, Anwar said the contract of appointment on Jan 9, 1992, was between the government of Israel and an associate firm known as GCI International.
"A closer scrutiny of the fine print and contents would show that in this particular agreement the person to be charged with the major task of lobbying for Israel was in fact Margery Kraus, who is now the CEO of Apco," he said.
'Cleaning up the image of autocrats'
Anwar further alleged that Apco "is very much in the business of cleaning up the image of autocrats and tyrants" to present them with a new face particularly in the eyes of United States administrations.
"The personalities involved in Apco also maintain close ties with Israel as well as US politicians very much linked to the Israeli lobby as well as politicians who are not known to be coy about their antipathy towards Islam and Muslims," he said.
Anwar also quoted a report by investigative journalist Ken Silverstein back in 2007 in Harper's magazine, where the writer went undercover to pose as a representative of Turkmenistan and manged to secure the services of Apco.
"Silverstein exposed the role and modus operandi of Apco in helping to launder the image of dictators (including) Barry Schumacher, a leading consultant to Israel in 1992... and Dick Cheney whose record in the Afghan and Iraq wars are a matter of public knowledge," he said.
Explain doubled-faced positions
The opposition leader also lambasted Najib for appointing a firm like Apco, while trumpeting the government's support of the Palestinian cause.
"While, on the other hand, (they appoint) a firm like Apco who is well associated with leaders of the Zionist regime that has uprooted Palestinians, both Muslims and Christians, from their homeland, driven them into refugee camps and is now building more settlements on occupied land.
"Can the honourable prime minister in all honesty tell us how he could reconcile these double-faced positions?" he said, adding that Najib's government has "chosen to be deafeningly silent" on the matter.
As the opposition leader finished his explanation, deputy Speaker Ronald Kiandee told the House that the ruling coalition could still refer Anwar to the Rights and Privileges Committee through a separate motion by voting.
One Israel's 'people first' slogan
Speaking at a press conference later, Anwar spoke on the similarities between the “One Israel” and “1 Malaysia” campaigns.
"The platform of One Israel was better access to education and health. (Hence), 1Malaysia, Clinic 1Malaysia," he said, adding that in Israel, it was designed to divert attention from the issue of settlements.
"1Malaysia is to divert attention from racial conflicts, bribery and corruption," he said.
Amwar also pointed out that One Israel's slogan was “People First”, similar to 1Malaysia's, “People first, performance now”.
"There are too many similarities between (former Israeli premier) Ehud Barak and Najib," he stressed.
Speaking to reporters later, Khairy denied having a working relationship with Omar, but admitted knowing him.