Any misconduct in 1MDB will not be condoned, Malaysia PM Najib assures ruling party leaders

PETALING JAYA (The Star/Asia News Network) - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak told senior cadres of his ruling Umno party on Sunday that no misconduct in the running of state investment fund 1MDB will be condoned.

Najib, who is also Umno president, made the promise to some 160 Umno division chiefs at a closed-door meeting at Putra World Trade Centre on Sunday, Umno supreme council member Ismail Sabri told reporters after the meeting.

Ismail said Najib gave the assurance that he would ensure that "no one would be protected" if he or she was found to have misappropriated from the government-backed fund. Ismail said all those present at the meeting "fully supported" the explanation given by Najib.

"This means that there is nothing to be protected by the Prime Minister and there is nothing that the government is trying to protect. This is what the president has explained and all division heads are satisfied with the explanation," said Ismail.

1MDB, or 1Malaysia Development Bhd, has become a big political liability for the premier, who chairs its board of advisers.

The fund is undergoing a strategic review after years of controversy over its debt, late financial reports and late loan payments. It is widely reported to be struggling to pay off more than US$11 billion (S$15.03 billion) in debt, raising fears it could collapse and wreak havoc on Malaysia's financial system.

The political opposition has been demanding that Najib and 1MDB clarify the fund's dealings and whether money was siphoned off to benefit those close to the premier.

Najib said on Wednesday he had instructed the Auditor-General to independently verify the accounts of 1MDB.

Ismail said on Sunday the moves and explanation by Najib was necessary amidst "accusations and slander" hurled on him with respect to 1MDB.

He said during Sunday meeting, Najib called for solidarity and the strengthening of Umno ahead of next year's party elections.

He said the meeting was a "usual meeting" and arranged by the division leaders for the purpose of hearing a response from the party president on current issues. Umno has 191 divisions throughout Malaysia.

Notably absent from the meeting was Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Kedah Mentri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir and Johor Mentri Besar Khaled Nordin.

Ismail said Mukhriz, who is a son of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, had to accompany the Sultan of Kedah at a function.

The absence of the other division chiefs was due to their prior commitments and should not be interpreted to mean anything else, said Ismail.