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FULL TRASCRIPT: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak

September 24th, 2014
04:09 PM ET

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, HOST: Prime Minister, welcome back to our program.

PRIME MINISTER NAJIB RAZAK, MALAYSIA: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: It's good to see you again. This has been a very difficult year for you and for your country, the first time you're speaking since the crash of MH-17.

How did you first hear about it? What was your reaction when yet another flight was blown out of the sky?

RAZAK: If you can imagine, you know, I mean just four months after MH-370 disappeared and all of a sudden, middle of the night the message comes, that look we just lost a plane. It’s off the radar. I was in a state of disbelief, how could it happen within a period of four months. But that was, it happened and it was a huge tragedy for Malaysia, especially for the families affected. But in a way I’m glad because we could see the strength in our grief, countries coming together and many like-minded countries, particularly countries affected. We have been working very closely together to get to the truth of what happened to the flight.

AMANPOUR: Did you and your officials and ministers react differently this time around than you did the first time around? You remember you came under some criticism the first time around.

RAZAK: I think so, I think there were some things that we got right, with respect to the first tragedy and something that we could have done better, especially on the communication side. But this time we realized that we needed to react and we acted differently and you know we were on top of the situation particularly on the communication side and we did things that were rather unconventional, we wanted to bring closure to the whole tragedy we wanted to bring dignity to the dead we wanted to initiate investigation to find out the truth.

AMANPOUR: What was unconventional?

RAZAK: Dealing with the separatists, something unprecedented.

AMANPOUR: What do you mean by dealing with the separatists?

RAZAK: Because normally as a government you deal with another government, but here it was a movement, a separatist movement and there was this impasse, we couldn’t bring the bodies, we couldn’t get our hands on the black boxes, and we couldn’t get access to the crash site. There was this impasse we didn’t know how long it would continue and I felt I owe it to the families affected because that really moved me because when I met them, I met each and every one individual families and it really touched me, I was moved, I was almost in tears and I could feel for them a huge sense of empathy and I told myself look as a leader of the country I needed to do something I needed to bring closure to the families.

AMANPOUR: So what did you do, I remember everyone was covering it and people were trying to get President Putin to do something or the Ukrainian government or just somebody to be able to do something. You said there was this impasse, then what did you do?

RAZAK: I decided 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 for a better outcome.

AMANPOUR: Did you ministers know, was this something you did alone?

RAZAK: I’m afraid I had to act alone because it was very sensitive. I had to press the buttons, I had to work the back channels, and I had to even conduct the operation itself. I mean, Can you imagine I was doing it myself, I was literally guiding our team from one check point to another on the phone until the whole mission was accomplished.

AMANPOUR: And this you did between yourself and who?

RAZAK: Another leader of the Malaysian team and I had several conversations with the leader of the separatist.

AMANPOUR: Is that Bordia?

RAZAK: That’s Borodai, yes!

AMANPOUR: What would’ve happened had you sought consultation? Had you decided to, have a wider circle. You think people might have said that you can’t do that? These are the people who are not recognized?

RAZAK: It’s probably a judgment call, I would say, huge risk involved. I mean the whole thing would have had a different outcome. I could’ve been, something could’ve happened to the team for example. People could’ve been held hostage. A lot of things could’ve gone wrong, but it was a judgment call, I decided I needed to do it.
AMANPOUR: And why did they say yes to you>
RAZAK: I appealed to them. I said look, come on, this is something you need to do because you know their families affected, they have nothing to do for what you are fighting for, they are not involved in the geo-political conflict, they are innocent people. Look, hand over the bodies to us, hand over the black boxes to us. I appealed to their conscience.

AMANPOUR: And everything happened as they promised you? You got the black boxes back, they would only give to the Malaysians and we know why. You got finally the bodies were repatriated though it took obviously it took a long time and that frustrated you. What about the crash site, I mean the investigation hasn’t been completed in any form of fashion?

RAZAK: Yes! We are still trying, unfortunately the fighting is still raging in the part so we can’t have access. The international team cannot have access but we are still trying. We are hoping that both sides, we are trying to appeal to both sides that please allow us to have access to conduct full investigation before winter sets in.

AMANPOUR: And you think you will?

RAZAK: I am not sure, I am not too optimistic but we are trying.

AMANPOUR: Do you think anybody will admit to what had happened?

RAZAK: 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, we must do it.

AMANPOUR: What do you think is the truth?

RAZAK: I have a sense what happened but I cannot say who did it.

AMANPOUR: You have a sense like most people,that it was shot down by a missile?

RAZAK: It was! I think the initial investigation appears to be very clear although they didn’t use the word missile they used High energy objects. 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 midair.

AMANPOUR: Do you think the rest of the world was not doing it right? You know there was obviously people were very angry with President Putin, people were very angry with Moscow in general with the interference by Moscow first in Crimea then in eastern Ukraine, very angry with the separatist rebels?

RAZAK: Yes! There was a very sharp rhetoric. We realized that sharp rhetoric were not leading anywhere. There was this as I said an Impasse and we needed to do something different. We needed to do something unconventional. We needed to get results and that to my mind was the most important thing. I wanted to retrieve the bodies, I wanted to get the black boxes.

AMANPOUR: There is something else that come up in the world, called ISIS or now I see a movement among Muslim leaders amongst prelist among European nations not to call them IS or ISIS to try to take away that Islamic state Monica that they have given themselves. What do you think of that?

RAZAK: Well, I made a statement a couple of weeks ago. I said that they do not speak for us. Whatever they stand for, they are against Islam, they are against God, they are against humanity and we shouldn’t call them Islamic state. Basically they are un-Islamic and neither are they a state nor a Caliphate for that matter. So I think we call them what we need to call them but certainly not Islamic or a state.

AMANPOUR: Do you agree with the coalition that’s gathered right here this week. I mean President Obama is going to be talking more about that and it looks like strikes will happen inside Syria. Do you believe that is the way to stop Dais or Islamic state or whatever you want to call them?

RAZAK: I think dealing with this threat, it’s not just one dimension. It cannot be seen as a military solution. I mean you are dealing with symptoms basically if it’s a military solution. You must get to the root of the problem. You must fight the idea, fight the ideology. It might take a long time but you need to do so because that’s the only way you will defeat this, this group or whatever you like to call it.

AMANPOUR: What are you going to say in your speech when you are here? They have declared a caliphate, they are trying to get other people to follow them. They are very brutal obviously. What can you do to defeat that kind of ideology?

RAZAK: I think we have to say what Islam stands for.

AMANPOUR: But you know Prime Minister, people like yourself and others have been saying that since 9/11 and still there’s this violent strain of extremist Islamic Barbarity. How do you stop it?

RAZAK: I don’t think we have done enough. I think we need to do more. We need to do more in terms of fighting this as an idea, as an ideology which means attacking the root cause of the problem and I don’t think the world has done enough in that respect. For example I mean Iraq, you need to have an inclusive government. We allowed Iraq to operate for such a long time, without adopting an inclusive approach and when we realized, it was too late. This is what I mean that we need to get everyone on board. We need to realize that it is political, it is ideological as much as it requires a military solution.

AMANPOUR: And do you sense that now all these years after 9/11, this latest incarnation of this terror , Do you think people have got their minds focused, especially in the Islamic world, where even after 9/11 it took a long time to get Islamic Intellectuals and leaders to actually condemn that Ideology. Do you think people are now seeing, it is a real threat?

RAZAK: I think the Muslim world needs to do more. They need to speak up in what needs to be done and in terms of how to portray you know that true face of Islam and I am deeply disappointed at the Shia, Sunni conflict. It’s really tearing up the Muslim world. There are a lot of things wrong with the Muslim world and we must put right to it.

AMANPOUR: Let’s move on to the environment.

RAZAK: Yes.

AMANPOUR: They - there have been huge protests all around the world - marches over this last weekend ahead of the global summit that's going to happen at the U.N. this week. People are really energized all over the world to try to get leaders to do something about climate change. The Chinese leaders are not coming nor the Russian, do I mean the countries will be represented but not by the heads of states or government they won’t be, those countries which are among the biggest polluters. Is Asia right when it says, Hang on a second, it’s our turn now. You all did your polluting and your industrial revolution and economic progress and now it’s our turn?

RAZAK: Well, you know, there's a saying that two wrongs don't make a right. And, you know, of course there are countries in Europe and America, you know, they've contributed in the sense to global warming but it’s not an excuse for Asia, not to do what is right.

AMANPOUR: What should Asia do? What should China do, what should Malaysia do?

RAZAK: Well, I think we should be committed to specific targets. And we should be held accountable to it. I think every single country in the world, big or small should be committed to some specific target in terms of carbon reduction. Carbon emission reduction and we must be specific about it, number 1. Number 2, we must set aside, you know large resources, which we promised the world. We promised the world at ??? and the world has not delivered. So I think on both accounts, you know the developing world accepts some sort of help, which is only natural and I think that help is not forth coming.

AMANPOUR: What sort of help?

RAZAK: In terms of resources for mitigation for reduction of carbon emissions, because they're poor countries. You know, they need help. They need - they need to develop at the same time you are telling them that look you can’t cut down forests, you can't do this, you can’t do that. Sure. But they need help because they need to help poverty and if you don’t fight poverty its arrest before disaster.

AMANPOUR: And finally, is there anything you can tell us about the investigation into MH370.

RAZAK: Well, it’s a baffling mystery Christiane but one day we will find the plane. But I am deeply disappointed in the sense that during, I mean present day you know modern aircraft can go missing, can go dark. What is wrong is not just you know the management of the whole tragedy? What is wrong is the entire management of the aviation industry. I mean having people on board who can turn off the communication system of the aircraft at will and you know not able to track the plane in real time. Having black boxes that emit pings that last for 30 days and recordings that last for two hours. I mean all these things, we should have a total and a complete review of how we manage the aviation industry and that is one lesson that we can draw from tragedy of MH370 and MH 17 as well.

AMANPOUR: And how does a nation recover from that double major whammy to the psyche to the very heart of society.

RAZAK: I think I am proud of the fact, I think the Malaysians are standing together. Malaysians realize that it was two huge tragedies. They need to you know a sense of solidarity for like. The only thing that is impactful in terms of what we do with Malaysian Airlines, I think they have suffered, you know in terms of reputation, in terms of financial losses but I am confident in due time with the restructuring program that we have in mind that must will eventually recover.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Razak, thank you very much for joining us.

RAZAK: Thank you.

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