Malaysia’s PM on Hot Seat Ahead of Party Meeting

Nani Yusof
151207-najib-620 Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) shakes hands with former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin during a press conference following an UMNO party supreme council meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Sept. 9, 2015.

On the eve of his party’s annual general assembly, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday again publically denied that he did anything wrong in a corruption scandal stemming from the deposit of nearly U.S. $700 million into his private bank accounts.

“I have not committed any offense or malpractice, this has been explained at the Parliament by the deputy prime minister [Ahmad Zahid Hamidi],” Najib said during a live interview with TV3, a privately owned Malaysian television station, according to the state-run Bernama news agency.

Najib’s appearance on national TV came ahead of the annual general meeting of his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party – which opens Tuesday – and two days after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) reportedly interviewed the prime minister for more than two hours about the $700 million deposit.

Monday’s TV appearance was the first time in weeks that Najib defended himself in public against the corruption allegations, which have dogged him since early July. After the allegations surfaced, he acknowledged that the large sum of money was deposited into his bank account via government entities linked to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), an indebted state fund, but said the money was a donation.

On Monday the commission confirmed that, as part of its probe, it had sent representatives to the Middle East to interview the person who donated the money.

“However, the MACC cannot disclose the results of the meeting as the investigation is still ongoing,” Azam Baki, the MACC’s investigation director, told Bernama.

Najib should take leave of absence: former deputy

Meanwhile, after being barred from addressing UMNO’s general assembly, Muhyiddin Yassin, a former deputy prime minister and the party’s acting deputy chairman, called Monday for Najib to take a leave of absence while the commission investigated the allegations against the PM. The party’s move to prevent its deputy chairman from speaking at the meeting was unprecedented.

“I suggest that the prime minister take a rest. Let the investigation be independent, transparent and fair,” Muyhiddin told an unofficial meeting of UMNO members, which was also attended by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, one of Najib’s most vocal critics who has called for him to resign over the 1MDB scandal.

“If the probe says that the prime minister is not involved, then you can continue your work as the prime minister,” the former deputy PM added, according to a transcript of his speech that was posted on Facebook.

In late July, Najib sacked Muhyiddin Yassin as part of a cabinet shuffle after Muhyiddin had criticized his boss about the scandal in public.

In the interview on TV3, Najib also took a shot at his former deputy, criticizing Muhyiddin for not gathering enough information about 1MDB.

“As the deputy prime minister then, he had the right to call the management of 1MDB to seek further clarification,” Najib told TV3,” according to Bernama.

“There is no real excuse not to get information. Everything about the 1MDB can be known,” the prime minister said.


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