Najib rallies Malaysians to stand by his govt

Terengganu state ferries bedecked with Malaysian flags, ahead of the country's national day, at the Seberang Takir jetty. The ferries had participated in a 16-boat event earlier to sail along Sungai Terengganu.
Terengganu state ferries bedecked with Malaysian flags, ahead of the country's national day, at the Seberang Takir jetty. The ferries had participated in a 16-boat event earlier to sail along Sungai Terengganu.PHOTO: FOTOBERNAMA

PM calls for unity on eve of the country's national day as general election looms

KUALA LUMPUR • Prime Minister Najib Razak called on all Malaysians to stand by his administration yesterday in his last national day address before he has to call the general election.

"In the spirit of independence, now is not the time for us to break ranks," he said in a statement on the eve of the 60th anniversary of independence from Britain.

"In the era of this government's administration, there is no greater gift to the people, in the true meaning of independence, than a government that has the ability to deliver on its promises."

Datuk Seri Najib, who became prime minister in 2009, has until mid-2018 to call a general election before his five-year term ends.

He is under pressure to increase his ruling coalition's parliamentary majority - which was reduced considerably in the two previous elections as urban voters in particular threw their support behind the opposition.

A national day parade today will include a special segment on an "era of development" under Mr Najib.

He said in his message that the government - led by a coalition that has ruled since independence in 1957 - has delivered on its promises to maintain a robust economy while providing world-class infrastructure and targeted aid.

"It is clear that the rate of development and growth of our country has quickened significantly, especially since 2009," Mr Najib said.

The general election, in which he will face an opposition led by veteran former premier Mahathir Mohamad, will indicate to what extent he has shrugged off the scandal over state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) which he set up in 2009 to promote economic development.

Mr Najib has resisted demands to step down over the last two years following reports that over US$700 million (S$950 million) was deposited into his personal bank account. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The fund is the subject of money-laundering investigations in at least six countries. The US Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into it, and has also launched civil lawsuits to seize some US$1.7 billion in assets it says were bought with misappropriated 1MDB funds, the largest action by the department under its kleptocracy asset recovery initiative.

Mr Najib in his national day address said his administration did not wish to waste time staving off allegations but would rather remain committed and determined to focus on efforts to spur intensive economic growth for the sake of the people.  

The story of Malaysia's independence, he said, continues to be infused with all kinds of success and achievements respected by friend and foe. South-east Asia's third largest economy, he said, is now widely referred to as a progressive nation developing fast based on a clear stand in such things as rejection of extremist ideologies.

REUTERS, BERNAMA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2017, with the headline 'Najib rallies Malaysians to stand by his govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe