Two reports aimed at tarnishing Najib's image: Malaysian government

Mr Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor, who was to receive an award for her work as patron of government body Permata. The awarding body later said it was deferring the award, a move Mr Najib's office said was due to a smear campaign by foreign papers c
Mr Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor, who was to receive an award for her work as patron of government body Permata. The awarding body later said it was deferring the award, a move Mr Najib's office said was due to a smear campaign by foreign papers critical of him.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Malaysian government has denied two controversial reports that it deemed to be attempts to tarnish the image of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

The Prime Minister's office denied that he had intervened in the case of Swiss national Xavier Justo, who is linked to graft allegations against the Malaysian leader.

It also said the deferment of a "Lead by Example" award for the Prime Minister's wife Rosmah Mansor was due to a smear campaign by foreign newspapers critical of him.

Bernama news agency reported last weekend that Datin Seri Rosmah would receive the award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) for her work as patron of Permata, a government body aimed at family and child welfare.

The awarding body - Washington-based non-profit organisation Antiquities Coalition - then clarified that the award was not being conferred by Unesco, and that it was deferring the award after receiving messages that raised doubts over Permata's funding.

 

Datuk Seri Najib's office said yesterday that it was The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times that had intervened. The two newspapers have repeatedly accused the Premier of abusing public funds in relation to US$681 million (S$927 million) found in his private bank accounts.

"We regret that those who chose to bestow the award have given in to the smears and insinuations of some who are only focused on their campaign against Malaysia, the government and the Prime Minister. Those behind this politically motivated campaign care nothing for the damage caused by these false allegations to Permata, its staff and all the young people they have helped and cared for," Mr Najib's press secretary Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad said in a statement.

He also insisted that Unesco director-general Irina Bokova had informed Ms Rosmah of the award in her official capacity.

He added that Permata was wholly funded by the government and that its expenses were a matter of public record.

"To avoid any further distraction from this important work for the children of Malaysia, Permata and Datin Seri Rosmah have declined the proposed deferred award," he said.

He also said that "contrary to what (Swiss newspaper) Le Temps published without any attempt at verification, at no point during the Sixth Malaysia-Thailand Annual Consultation meeting did Prime Minister Najib Razak or anyone from the Malaysian delegation raise any matter relating to convicted blackmailer Xavier Justo".

Justo had leaked documents relating to a PetroSaudi deal with 1Malaysia Development Berhad that led to claims of misappropriation of billions of ringgit from the state fund. He is serving a three-year jail term in Thailand for attempted extortion and blackmail of his former employer.

The Le Temps report said he was not allowed to serve his remaining sentence in Switzerland purportedly due to a request by Mr Najib when he was in Bangkok on an official visit recently.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2016, with the headline 'Two reports aimed at tarnishing Najib's image: Malaysian govt'. Print Edition | Subscribe