BN legislators rally behind Najib in House

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (centre, right) arriving during a joint police-army exercise at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 22, 2016.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (centre, right) arriving during a joint police-army exercise at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on Feb 22, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Opposition MPs left frustrated as Parliament rejects questions on funds linked to 1MDB

Government lawmakers loyal to Prime Minister Najib Razak rallied behind their leader on the first day of a parliamentary debate, just days after an alliance led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad demanded the Malaysian leader's ouster.

The so-called Citizens' Alliance comprises opposition figures and civil society leaders as well as Umno rebels, including suspended Umno deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin.

But opposition MPs were left frustrated yesterday after Parliament rejected at least a dozen questions concerning mismanagement of billions belonging to state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and at least US$700 million (S$968 million) linked to 1MDB that ended up in Mr Najib's personal accounts.

Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs who spoke in Parliament appeared unmoved by the renewed assault on Datuk Seri Najib.

One representative from Sarawak bemoaned the 90-year-old former prime minister's actions as being detrimental to the country.

The opposition accused the Najib government of abusing its executive power to interfere in the legislative process by providing "technical excuses" to avoid questions on 1MDB and funds received by Mr Najib.

"Tun Mahathir visited my constituency before and called for us to be united. I hope this issue doesn't spread to Sarawak, where we enjoy peace and harmony," said Sibuti MP Ahmad Lai Bujang.

Other BN legislators praised the government for implementing various policies, including last year's implementation of the goods and services tax, which has provided billions for public spending.

The opposition accused the Najib government of abusing its executive power to interfere in the legislative process by providing "technical excuses" to avoid questions on 1MDB and funds received by Mr Najib.

 

Reasons cited by Parliament in rejecting opposition MPs' questions included addressing queries to the wrong minister, making presumptions and asking about affairs in a foreign country.

"It's terrible. It shows there is no accountability by the executive. We can only make presumptions now because the questions have been rejected. When the PM doesn't want to answer, then the public will become even more suspicious," said Democratic Action Party publicity chief Tony Pua, a strident critic of 1MDB who had four of his questions thrown out.

Parliament is currently debating the Malaysian King's opening address on Monday, in which the ruler called for politicians to end incessant bickering that has "exhausted the people and government" and could lead to "the downfall of the country".

Last Friday, Dr Mahathir and about four dozen prominent Malaysians signed a declaration in which they sought Mr Najib's exit in order to reform the government.

The group included former rivals, including those jailed during Dr Mahathir's 22-year rule, such as opposition stalwarts Lim Kit Siang and Mohamed Sabu.

Jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim also expressed support for the alliance despite having been sacked as deputy prime minister by Dr Mahathir in 1998 before he was jailed for abuse of power and on a sodomy conviction that was subsequently overturned.

The sight of Dr Mahathir sitting alongside top opposition figures has led to claims that the former Umno strongman was betraying the ruling party.

But Tan Sri Muhyiddin said in a statement yesterday that BN leaders should not be "trapped in denial".

"The public's rejection (of BN) is not due to the Citizens' Declaration, but the failure of Umno leaders to guide the party in line with the values held by the public, such as honesty, responsibility, transparency and justice," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2016, with the headline 'BN legislators rally behind Najib in House'. Print Edition | Subscribe