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EXCLUSIVE: To win release of MH17 bodies and black boxes, Malaysia PM ‘had to act alone’

September 24th, 2014
03:02 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is speaking out for the first time on the “unconventional” backdoor negotiations he led to get MH17’S black boxes and victims’ bodies out of eastern Ukraine.

“Sometimes,” he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday, “you have to work the back channels.”

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.

“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.”

When MH17 was shot down over Ukraine just over two months ago, bodies were left to rot in the fields, and the crucial black boxes – the key to the truth about what happened – remained under control of separatist rebels.

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.”

As western leaders turned up the rhetoric on Russia, it was only through Prime Minister Najib's rare personal intervention – negotiating directly with the rebels – that the bodies and black boxes were recovered.

“I met each and every one – individual families,” he said. “I was moved, I was almost in tears.”

“As the leader of the country I needed to do something; I needed to bring close to the families.”

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.”

“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.”

There were many even in his own government who didn’t know what he was doing.

“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.”

Filed under:  Christiane Amanpour • Latest Episode • Malaysia • Ukraine
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. srimevan

    how is it possible that the media of the whole world has forgotten this tragedy and the report on black boxes.can you report on the outcome of the black boxes

    September 24, 2014 at 9:16 pm | Reply
    • shirley

      actually reported already. u can search the news online

      September 24, 2014 at 11:39 pm | Reply
    • Nick

      The black boxes from flight MH17 have been handed over by Malaysian experts to the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) that is leading the international investigation," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

      September 25, 2014 at 12:03 am | Reply
      • Ahmmid Kolade

        The western media forgot the black boxes - But malaysian govt. and media never forgot. I am not Malaysian but I love this PM for been a strong man handling this issue alone - The west did their parts by blowing of innocent souls for sake of their own interests .. Y'all gonna fall one day and realize all what you told us to believe are all bunch of lies ..

        September 25, 2014 at 2:18 am |
    • philbo45

      Because those same "back channels" have somehow begun to enact the cover up. US and Russian intelligence know exactly what happened. There is no way on this Earth they do not given the capability. Whatever the reasons, the final cards are not played now. We've been investigating this from all angles, there have to be deals on the table, or we would have the verifiable proof. This was broad daylight with spy satellites watching keenly. (look to the news and current events, the economics to come)

      September 27, 2014 at 6:43 am | Reply
  2. ctteo

    As a citizen of Malaysia, I ought to be proud of what my PM has done as divulged here!!
    Sadly, no such feeling came up.
    I do not wish to wash dirty linen in public but the citizens of the free world who have followed political developments in Malaysia may understand this lack of pride.
    Make no doubt of this, on this account, Najib has indeed succeeded in bringing some sort of closure for the families involved in this tragic incident.

    September 25, 2014 at 2:16 am | Reply
  3. Azabaz

    Wow....I'm so impressed by what he did to secure the bodies, the blackboxes and site.

    September 25, 2014 at 2:54 am | Reply
  4. Amy Lee Christian

    So where is MH370? What are the mistakes ?

    September 25, 2014 at 2:58 am | Reply
  5. Alex

    Hi , been following cnn stories on Isis and growing fears on militants returning to their home countries and causing more terrorist attacks . I just have a suggestion and would like to know where I can make such suggestions ...

    September 25, 2014 at 3:46 am | Reply
  6. Al-e

    I cant comment, as will be charged into Sedition Act.

    September 25, 2014 at 4:26 am | Reply
  7. ChineseMalaysia

    Hi, We are chinese Malaysia and we really proud of PM Najib really done the best job in here. He used his talent and calm win everything without even need to fight in the war with Ukraine rebels. PM Najib you are the BEST!

    September 25, 2014 at 4:28 am | Reply
    • Ross

      You gotta be kidding me! Your praises of PM Najib was much over done!

      But in all fairness, he did a good job in the 2nd airline disaster. As for the 1st (MH370), I need not say further, you know, I know ......

      September 25, 2014 at 11:52 am | Reply
  8. Erm...

    Obama should do a noble thing once in his lifetime and give his noble-peace-prize-in-advance to Najib

    September 25, 2014 at 4:52 am | Reply
  9. Sharmini

    I laughed out loud, almost choking on my tea, when I read this !
    Yeah right ! The Malaysian PM did it all by himself, ala Rambo ! Is this a joke or what ?
    What exactly did he do ? There are bodies STILL strewn on the ground, and he's being smug about what again ?

    September 25, 2014 at 4:55 am | Reply
    • KCF

      Without him all 200++ bodies that already received a proper burial may still strewn out the open. Sometimes I just dont understand the zombies with much hatred.

      September 25, 2014 at 9:06 am | Reply
    • Jay

      He basically organized this meeting:

      September 25, 2014 at 11:05 am | Reply
  10. soulman

    PM Najib done well and Malaysian are touched by his personal intervention. Good on you Sir

    September 25, 2014 at 5:19 am | Reply
  11. Harry

    He should be addressed as Prime Minister Najib, not Razak. Razak's his father. The naming system used by Muslim Malays is one of "X son / daughter of Y". Christiane Amanpour should have done her homework prior to this interview.

    September 25, 2014 at 6:17 am | Reply
  12. Sridhar R

    What Shri Najib did is fully justified. It was on humane considerations and in full understanding of the deep agony the families of victims suffered. My appreciation of the Great humanitarian job by Shri Najib.

    September 25, 2014 at 10:02 am | Reply
  13. mana mama??

    ohhh banyak gila proud.. sudah2 tahun depa kita kena gst sapa nk tanggung??

    September 25, 2014 at 11:39 am | Reply
  14. supian zainuddin

    some of the comments I read here shows how Malaysians are like. Please give credit where it is due. i just sense this hatred and just aggression. The malaysians are just not thankful and take things for granted. He has done something right and we should be happy with that but no, these morons are just out there to bash out. Fellow malaysians who critisize here, look at yourselves in the mirror and just be thankful for once.

    September 25, 2014 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  15. Mustang wanted

    Everyone knows Russia is completely responsible for this tragedy and they did nothing but steal from the dead and make up ridiculous excuses after their imbecile mercenaries shot that plane down. The world will not forget Russia's involvement.

    September 25, 2014 at 5:16 pm | Reply
  16. truth teller

    Russia will pay a price for this.

    September 25, 2014 at 5:19 pm | Reply
  17. ben five

    I just wonder if the Russian people will ever wake up to the lies fed to them by the Kremlin. It amazes me how they put up with their government destroying their lives. Their economy will be beyond repair soon.

    September 25, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Reply
  18. Name*noor fahiza bt Muhammad

    Salam, Dato 4 my advise don afraid this is onli game! Them try to make us make action without thinkakar umbi dan cuba meletuskn peerangan spt negara islam yg lain. Percayalah agenda1 malaysia yg memberi byk maksud .jgn x di jangka kitalah negara yg d gerumi negara besar yg lain kerana kitalah negara yg bertuah yg akn mbebaskan GAZA dr cengkaman ISRAEL.percayalah agenda kita sudah hampir ke penghujung Malaysia adalh negara ISLAM YG AKN MBANGKITKAN NUSANTARA sekaligus menakutkn musuh2 islam yg lain. Kami anak Malaysia AMAT BANGGA DGN APE YG TUAN LAKUKAN . KAMI SENTIASA D BELAKANG DATO. KAMILh pelapis tuk generasi akn datang ...PERCAYALAH DISINILAH LAHIRNYA SEBUAH CINTA.....I LOVE U PM.. U R MY IDOL

    September 26, 2014 at 12:26 am | Reply
    • Ben

      Ohhh...realy just wait and much propaganda.sorry bro i'm a muslim but i don't realy agree what you saying right now...why don't go to GAZA right now....such a hipokirt.

      September 28, 2014 at 7:04 pm | Reply
  19. new

    new comment

    September 26, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  20. One more truth teller

    The plane was shot by Ukranian military jet. Just open your eyes and take a look at facts, not propaganda.

    September 26, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Reply
  21. news guy

    Intelligent people know that Putin and his thugs are responsible for this. People now laugh at made up Kremlin stories such as the one above are told. Ukrainian jet, lol, please. The world knows Russia is responsible.

    September 29, 2014 at 9:18 pm | Reply
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