The early stages of the MH17 investigation were met with a deadlock- nobody had access to the bodies, black boxes nor the crash site. It was only through PM Najib's personal intervention that the bodies and black boxes were recovered from the Ukrainian rebels.
"It was only through the Prime Minister's rare personal intervention, that means negotiating directly with the rebels, the bodies and the black boxes were recovered," Christian Amanpour.
For the first time since he was lauded as the 'hero' of the MH17 investigation, Najib speaks up about his negotiation with the rebels in an exclusive interview with CNN's Christian Amanpour
Najib tells Amanpour that he was in a state of disbelief when he received news about MH17 in the middle of the night, just four months after MH370's disappearance
When Malaysian Prime Minister Najib came to the United Nations last year, he could never have imagined that two of his country's planes would soon suffer disasters.cnn.com
“If you can imagine, he said, “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.”cnn.com
"How could it happen in a perioud of four months?"
Learning from criticisms about the government's poor handling of the MH370 crisis, Najib realised that they had to act differently this time. They had to resort to unconventional measures.
Prime Minister Najib, stung by his government's ineffectual response to the disappearance of MH370 in the Indian Ocean, had learned his lesson. “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 realized that we needed to act and we acted differently.”cnn.com
"Dealing with the separatists is something unprecedented," says Najib. He explained that normally government only deal with other government, not separatist movement.
What he decided to do, he told Amanpour, was “rather unconventional.” “Normally as a government, you’d only deal with another government. But here is a movement, a separatist movement, and there was this impasse.”cnn.com
“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.”cnn.com
Najib's decided to intervene personally after meeting with each and every one of the families. He told himself that he had to bring closure to the families as the leader of the country.
Facing an impasse, he saw a need to negotiate with the separatists. "Sometimes we have to engage in quiet diplomacy in the service of a better outcome."
"I decided that I needed to negotiate with the separatists. This is, as I said, unconventional. But sometimes we have to work the back channels, we have to engage in quiet diplomacy in the service of a better outcome."
He had to act alone because it was very sensitive. Najib told of how he conducted the operation himself, guiding the team from one checkpoint to another until the mission was accomplished.
“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, on the phone, until the whole mission was accomplished.”cnn.com
Amanpour asked Najib the million dollar question: "Why did they (the separatists) say 'yes' to you?"
Najib: "I appealed to them. I said look, come on, this is something that you need to do, because there are families affected. They have nothing to do with what you are fighting for, they are not involved in the geopolitical conflict. They are innocent people. Look, hand over the bodies to us, hand over the black boxes to us. I appealed to their conscience."
Najib said frankly that he does not think anyone would admit to shooting down MH17
"Frankly, I don't think so. I think getting the bodies back, getting the black boxes, that would seem to be relatively easier than finding out the truth. But, we owe it to the families that we must do it."
Although he has a sense of what had happened, he cannot say who did it
Amanpour: "You have a sense like most people that it was shot down by missile?"
Najib: "It was. I think the initial investigation appears to be very clear, although they didn't use the word missile, they said a 'high energy object'. Looking at the pattern of what happened, it was a huge missile or whatever it was that exploded just outside the plane and led to the breakup of the plane in mid-air."