SHAH ALAM (The Star/Asia News Network) - Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on Sunday (Oct 18) criticised his detractors for turning troubled state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) into a "political football".
"Just don't make it a political football, if there are wrongdoings let the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) find out," Najib said at the opening of the delegates conference of Gerakan, the Chinese-majority partner of his Barisan Nasional ruling coalition.
"We are elected by the people and we will serve the people through difficult times."
Najib's was speaking a day after the opposition submitted a notice for a no-confidence vote against him amid a barrage of corruption allegations.
Critics want Najib to explain massive sums allegedly missing from 1MDB, which he launched and chairs, and nearly US$700 million (S$969 million) in mysterious transfers made to his personal bank accounts.
While the motion is unlikely to succeed as Najib's party holds a majority in parliament, it adds to pressure on the embattled premier as he fights for his political life over the scandal.
Najib said the government would soon announce details of the rationalisation programme for 1MDB.
The company had already embarked on a rationalisation scheme to ease its cash flow problems and this included the sale of its power generation arm.
Najib, who is also finance minister, also spoke on the upcoming budget and said he had a tough task ahead to come out with a good one amid unhappiness over a highway toll hike and the new Goods and Services Tax (GST).
"Take the toll for example, if you do not increase the toll rates, you have to pay the compensation (to the concessionaires) and that leaves less resources for other things such as BR1M.
"Petroleum prices have slumped and Petronas which gave a dividend of RM26bil this year have said that they can only give RM9bil next year. Where am I to go to make up the RM15bil deficit," Najib said.
He said that borrowing money was not an option as that would make Malaysia a debt ridden country.
"We are not a failed state, we are successful and had a 6 per cent growth rate last year," he said.
Najib said the people "are cursing" the government over the GST.
"I know the rakyat are cursing, but without GST, you will see an increase in other forms of taxes," he said.
Najib said he believed the country would rise again as it had gone through worse times.
The 1MDB affair has left Najib facing revolt even within his ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno), which has controlled the country for nearly six decades and faces sliding support.
On Thursday, a senior high-level Umno official jumped ship to the opposition camp, and several other heavyweights last week joined former premier Mahathir Mohamad to demand Najib answer corruption charges.
Malaysia’s nine state sultans, in a rare statement released on Oct 6, said failure to investigate the allegations had created a “crisis of confidence” and called for a probe into the affair to be revived.
Najib on Sunday called on Malaysians to believe in the leadership of Umno and the Barisan Nasional coalition, that they will continue on a moderate and progressive path.
“I am however aware that there are statements made by some individuals who are in Umno and BN. But, believe in us, believe in the policies and leadership of BN," Najib said in his speech at Gerakan's delegates conference.
“I insist that we will continue to be a moderate and progressive Barisan Nasional," he said, adding that Barisan “believes in the concept of finding consensus when making decisions.”
“As the chairman, this is a legacy left behind by our predecessors, by my father, the late Tun Abdul Razak, and I am committed to it,” he said.
Najib said Umno would take action on members over their hurtful or racist remarks but reminded those at the receiving end not to retaliate to the extent of insulting the leaders.
“I think we should, whether through law enforcement or party discipline. But at the same time, we hope for that ‘other party’ to not be so rude.
“For every action, there will be a reaction, do not insult the leadership of this country.
“If you do not believe in it, you have a chance every five years because we believe in democracy and going back to the rakyat.
“So do not hurl insults or humiliate the leaders of Malaysia,” he said adding that Malaysia needs to be a mature democracy.
The premier also hit back at Dr Mahathir's criticism of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, or Sosma. Sosma, which replaced the repealed Internal Security Act, is a law targeting terrorists but Dr Mahathir said the government is using it against its critics.
“People say Malaysia is a police state now but check how many people have been arrested now and how many people were arrested by the previous leadership under ISA," Najib said on Sunday.
“This is not a police state, this is what we call the rule of law, and amidst all this, it is important to stay together as a nation,” he said.
He stressed that the opposition would always play up and stir hatred especially through social media, but the issues played up could be outright lies, half-truths or opinions.
“Believe that BN is the best form of government.
“We must be clear of our direction based on the social contract and the constitution which is for multi-ethnic and multi-religious social principals,” he said.
He added that the ruling government would do what is needed for the people.
“However, we cannot take the populist approach because we need to deliver,” he said.