KUALA LUMPUR • Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor yesterday said that state funds allocated for the Permata programme she founded in 2007 do not go into her pocket, The Star online reported.
The Malaysian government's 2017 budget in October revealed that RM85 million (S$27 million) had been allocated to the programme to educate young children, raising eyebrows among the general public.
"I would like to stress that whatever budget we receive from the government does not go into my handbag," she said, leaving her audience in stitches, reported news site malaysiakini.com.
Madam Rosmah, the wife of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, was speaking after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in Early Childhood Education from the World Chinese Economic Summit International Advisory Council.
She pointed out that the money is parked with the Federal Treasury and that proper procedures have to be adhered to regarding how it is spent.
"You have to ask Datuk Seri Siti Azizah (Permata's working committee chairman) because she is the one who requested the money and ensures how it is spent and disbursed. She does not report to me," she said.
Permata, which means "gem" or "jewel" in the Malay language, made headlines in September when national news agency Bernama mistakenly reported that Madam Rosmah was slated to receive a Unesco award for her efforts as its patron.
The correct awarding body, the Washington-based non-profit organisation Antiquities Coalition, then said that it was deferring the award due to doubts over Permata's funding, believed to have arisen from the Wall Street Journal's reports on alleged financial mismanagement at Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
Madam Rosmah later clarified that she had declined the award to avoid further distractions from the important work she was doing for the children of Malaysia.
According to malaysiakini. com, during her acceptance speech, Madam Rosmah also spoke of how her daughter, now studying in the United States, had met Mr Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump.
"It was nice of Ivanka to give her the time in spite of her busy schedule. So I was telling my husband, in spite of her wealth and her father going to be (US) president she's still very down-to- earth, warm and friendly," she said. "So this is a lesson to all of us. So now you know how Trump made it as the president."
The news site also reported that the audience sang Happy Birthday to Madam Rosmah, who will turn 65 next week.