"It is also incorrect that APCO represented the Government of Israel or Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as has been alleged in Malaysia's Parliament. At no time has APCO been involved with a public relations campaign relating to a "One-Israel" concept. The statement in Malaysia's Parliament that APCO was involved in such a campaign is false."Anwar has responded by claiming that Apco was already present in Malaysia for six months prior to the 1Malaysia launch through a company called Mind Teams. He has urged the Government to cancel its contract with Apco:
"Apco’s role of advising on strategic communication on a comprehensive basis would entail involvement of the Prime Minister’s Department, Home Ministry, Information Ministry and other related ministries. It encompasses a vast network of the nation’s crucial and strategic operations which will have a bearing on the nation’s security."The use of a PR agency to work on external Government campaigns is hardly, on its own, controversial. Malaysiakini's useful roundup of comments on the issue illustrates that it is the Israel link which is proving particularly potent. Anwar, like any good politician perhaps, has skilfully intertwined separate claims to create a narrative that has forced Apco onto the defensive. Further investigation by the Straits Times reveals that Apco did, in fact, work for Israel in the 90s. A tad disingenuously, the agency has said that this work occurred while it was under the ownership of Grey Global Group, with which it has since cut ties. Apco now finds itself embroiled in its own PR nightmare in Malaysia, with the agency effectively becoming a political football in the fierce battle between the country's Government and the Anwar-helmed opposition. It is hard not to feel a measure of sympathy for the agency. After all, it appears to have done little wrong here, other than work for Israel. Which, to put it plainly, is not a crime. Still, the scenario serves as a timely reminder of the risks of government advocacy, in a febrile environment where social media and politics can combine to spectacular effect. When Apco won this business, its Asia CEO Larry Snoddon pointed out that the assignment illustrated the changing dynamics of public affairs in Asia. Strategic government work, rather than the usual corporate projects. With that change, though, comes some interesting consequences, as Apco would undoubtedly attest to now.