Najib faces backlash over candidate vetting

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said his Barisan Nasional coalition has shown proof of its transparency by submitting the names of its potential election candidates for the anti-graft agency to vet, but this triggered the response that he should be vetted first.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which is prodding opposition parties to submit the names of their potential candidates, has also come under attack for not doing anything over the scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

Datuk Seri Najib wrote on Twitter last Saturday: "The only party that has submitted some names of our candidates for PRU14 (the next general election) to MACC to vet, proof of our transparency to service the people."

But dozens of people shot back, questioning his own record.

"The person who needed to be vetted is the (Umno) president himself," said one comment.

Wrote another: "Gud (Good)... but are (you) also included in the vetting @NajibRazak? Or you're excused?"

Mr Najib has been cleared by Malaysia's attorney-general of any wrongdoing in the 1MDB scandal. Officials have said some US$700 million (S$954 million) found in the Premier's bank accounts in 2013 were donations from Saudi Arabia. Mr Najib has always denied any wrongdoing.

There are ongoing probes in at least half a dozen countries, including Singapore, over the missing billions of 1MDB funds.

The United States Department of Justice has filed a civil suit to seize US$1 billion in assets that it believes were procured using money from 1MDB.

Swiss investigators have said US$4 billion may have been misappropriated from 1MDB.

In Malaysia, the public vetting of election candidates has always been controversial, as some fear their financial and personal records would be queried by the public even if they were later dropped from the contest.

MACC chief commissioner Dzulkifli Ahmad said last week that though there was no law for political parties to submit their names to the agency, vetting would ensure that the candidates are not tainted by corruption and abuse of power.

Mr P. Ramasamy, Penang's Deputy Chief Minister, said: "(If) the MACC lacks the courage to deal with those who have ruined a sovereign fund like the 1MDB, then what moral authority does the agency have to ask for a list of possible candidates, especially from the opposition?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2017, with the headline 'Najib faces backlash over candidate vetting'. Print Edition | Subscribe