He has been called by many names, most of which are unsavoury predictably because they came from his detractors.
Former Prime Minister Najib Razak, a convicted felon, has been variously referred to as a thief, liar, kleptocrat, “court cluster” member and even national embarrassment.
But apparently none of these have stuck on him as well as the endearing “Bossku” moniker, which appears in the rallying cry “Malu apa Bossku?” (What is there to be ashamed of, my Boss?) among his avid supporters.
This is despite certain Islamic studies scholars in the country pointing out that shame (malu in Malay) has a social role: it is meant to deter individuals from doing bad things that are supposedly shameful to themselves and the rest of society.
Or at the very least, shame purportedly would make the culpable feel remorseful and repentant and he or she would, therefore, not repeat the same mistake.
This is also despite Najib having been found guilty on seven corruption charges and sentenced to up to 12 years in the slammer and fined RM210m. And there are other lawsuits awaiting him to boot.
Lo and behold, his nemesis, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, worried about Najib’s possible political comeback, wants to see to it that Najib – and ordinary Malaysians – would be constantly reminded that what he did was shameful and dangerous.
Najib has over the last few years acted in a way that critics could only describe as sheer impertinence, especially after he was emboldened by the support he got from – and even reverence conferred by – his political allies and certain quarters in society.
He has taken a high public profile that sees him moving in public places such as temples, schools and in campaigns for by-elections, rubbing shoulders with ordinary folk.
Now he is busily criss-crossing the southern state of Johor, leading a Barisan Nasional (BN) electoral campaign in the run-up to the state election – the result of which might swiftly trigger a general election, especially if BN captures Johor.
Certain analysts felt that his personal touch endeared some people and his fan base, particularly the low-income group, who were grateful for his financial aid during his tenure as prime minister. He is feted by many of these people.
But cynics would insist that what Najib, the consummate politician, has been doing is nothing less than an act of bravado.
His recent performance in Parliament suggests he has an uncanny talent for immersing into a persona very much different from the one his detractors would prefer. In fact, some people, including fellow MPs, were taken aback by his conduct in the Parliament.
In the august chamber of the Dewan Rakyat where the subject of Malaysia’s greatest financial scandal was raised, the Pekan MP assured fellow parliamentarians (and by extension, ordinary Malaysians) that not a single sen of public funds had been used by the government to repay the 1MDB principal debt.
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz had to hurriedly respond, saying that 1MDB debts had not yet been settled because our country was still paying the interest.
Najib also insisted that public funds were not required because various sums of money had been recovered from Goldman Sachs, audit firms KPMG and Deloitte, Ambank and the US Department of Justice.
Najib seems to have the surreal ability to ‘detach’ himself from the 1MDB scandal as if, like any other innocent onlooker, he had no part in it – just being a mere bystander giving his two sen worth.
In trying to understand the persona of “Bossku”, some people may tend to wholly put it down to Najib’s political cunningness.
But it may also be worthwhile to ponder whether the Bossku phenomenon is a sad reflection of not only a political culture but also of our larger society that has lost its moral compass. – The Malaysian Insight