Najib fends off allegations of being snubbed on US visit

President Donald Trump greeting Prime Minister Najib Razak outside the West Wing of the White House on Sept 12. The Malaysian opposition allege that Mr Trump did not want to meet Datuk Seri Najib due to the ongoing US probe into state fund 1Malaysia
President Donald Trump greeting Prime Minister Najib Razak outside the West Wing of the White House on Sept 12. The Malaysian opposition allege that Mr Trump did not want to meet Datuk Seri Najib due to the ongoing US probe into state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak has brushed off allegations that he was not put up at Blair House - the US president's guest house - during his visit last month as he was not welcomed in Washington.

"Even though I did not stay at the Blair House, I had an invitation to play golf with Trump. Trump also walked me to my car.

"We still get the highest honour from the US administration," Datuk Seri Najib was quoted as saying by The Malay Mail Online.

He was replying to a question in Parliament by opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on why he had stayed in Trump International Hotel, while Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stayed at Blair House during his Oct 22-26 visit to the US.

PM Najib met President Donald Trump last month and announced that Malaysia would invest some US$17 billion (S$23 billion) in the United States, including ordering four dozen Boeing jets for national carrier Malaysia Airlines.

At the heart of Mr Najib's reply are accusations by the opposition that Mr Trump did not really want to meet Mr Najib due to the ongoing US probe into scandal-tainted state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

The opposition has scoffed at Mr Najib for appearing to try to impress Mr Trump with promises of billions of dollars in investments.

Blair House has hosted other notable world leaders such as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former French president Charles de Gaulle, Japan's Emperor Akihito and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr Najib yesterday said he did not pay for his US trip, unlike former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. "My invitation to meet Trump was on official government business. I did not pay anything for the invite. My predecessor had to do several things to get an invite from (President George W.) Bush. I do not practise that," he said.

The Malaysian Insight reported that Tun Dr Mahathir paid a lobbyist to arrange a meeting with then President Bush in 2002.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2017, with the headline 'Najib fends off allegations of being snubbed on US visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe