Malaysia DPM Zahid's answers on 1MDB spark outcry

Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid HamidiPHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION

'Political donation' to Najib not illegal, he says. Cop-out, says opposition leader

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said yesterday the RM2.6 billion (S$865 million) found in Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal bank accounts was from a "political donation" but did not name the donor, nor did he say if the funds have all been used up.

He also told a Parliament sitting that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which had been investigating the source of the funds, had said in August that the money was not from state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), as had been alleged.

MACC has identified who the donor is, while the central bank had been told that Datuk Seri Najib was opening the bank account.

"At this point in time, there are no laws in Malaysia that require political donors to be made public and (there are no laws) that make donations illegal to be used for politics," Datuk Seri Zahid told the House.

NO LAWS BROKEN

At this point in time, there are no laws in Malaysia that require political donors to be made public and (there are no laws) that make donations illegal to be used for politics.

DATUK SERI AHMAD ZAHID HAMIDI, Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister

His remarks, in response to questions raised by opposition members through the six-week parliamentary session, attempted to show that all was above board with the inflow of the huge sum of money that has shocked Malaysians.

 

The scandal came to light five months ago when the Wall Street Journal reported that nearly US$700 million (S$982 million) was discovered in the personal bank accounts of the Prime Minister in March 2013, shaking public confidence in the Najib administration and tainting the office. There have been allegations that the funds could have originated from 1MDB.

Opposition MPs were in an uproar yesterday and wanted to know why Mr Najib did not personally explain the matter in the House. Others wanted to ask follow-up questions but were stopped by the Speaker.

Mr Zahid said Malaysia's political system allows for political donations and blamed the situation on the opposition's repeated blocking of government moves in the past to make such donations more transparent. "Because this donation has garnered much public attention... Mr Najib has this year reiterated his earlier suggestion to monitor political donations by establishing the National Consultative Council, which will take into consideration all views," he said.

MACC had said the money came from Middle Eastern donors and Mr Zahid said in August he had met the donor's representatives.

His explanation is unlikely to satisfy critics and the general public who have been clamouring for accountability and a full explanation as to who the donor was and how the money was utilised.

Labelling the short statement the "greatest cop-out" in Parliament in the country's history, senior opposition leader Lim Kit Siang lambasted the government for not offering any new information on the funds, especially since Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Azalina Othman had promised early last month that it would answer all questions on the donation "at one go".

At a press conference in the Parliament lobby, Ms Azalina defended the reply, saying it gave a clear interpretation of what transpired.

Former premier Mahathir Mohamad, a fierce critic of Mr Najib's, demanded that the government show proof that the money did not come from 1MDB and called for an external audit to be done. "Just saying it is a donation is not enough. Give credible evidence," he said in a post on his personal blog yesterday.

MACC in a statement said it met Mr Najib yesterday to finalise a date to record the his statement in relation to the funds probe.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'DPM Zahid's answers on 1MDB spark outcry'. Print Edition | Subscribe