KUALA LUMPUR • Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has revealed that he had asked Prime Minister Najib Razak to step down as chairman of the board of advisers of the controversial 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) but the latter ignored his advice.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin said that he had no ill intentions by suggesting this, but had not wanted Datuk Seri Najib's name to be tarnished because of his involvement with the debt-ridden state investment fund, the Malaysian Insider news website reported on Sunday (July 26).
"I told him to let go off his post in 1MDB, but he didn't want to listen," he was reported as saying.
Mr Muhyiddin, who is also deputy president of the ruling party Umno, also said that Mr Najib should take the lead in explaining the 1MDB issue to the people.
When the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on July 3 that US$700million (S$960 million) had been transferred from 1MDB to Mr Najib's personal accounts, Mr Muhyiddin asked him to issue a denial, the DPM said yesterday.
"When the news first came out, I texted the Prime Minister, saying: 'Sir this was something serious that you have to deny.' He replied, saying thanks and told me he had already done so.
"Although there was a denial, it was from the Prime Minister's Department. I told him again that he had to be the one to do it as the allegation was made against him and then only there was denial," Mr Muhyiddin was quoted by The Malaysian Insider as saying.
Saying he chose to speak up publicly as he was on an Umno platform, he said at a meeting of the Cheras division of Umno last night that the government should not underestimate the people's negative sentiments towards 1MDB. "Don't underestimate the people, we cannot lie, when the Second Finance Minister explains on 1MDB, the critics rebut him and when the Housing Minister speaks, he is also rebutted.
"We cannot explain properly because even we don't know the real facts, so who is going to tell us the real facts, it should be the Prime Minister, true or not," Mr Muhyiddin was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.
On the Home Ministry's decision to suspend The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily for three months, Mr Muhyiddin said he had to read The Edge to get information on 1MDB and asked if reports by The Edge on the fund could not be trusted, which news source could the people trust.
"I myself also found it difficult to understand what was going on with 1MDB, and so much so that I had to read The Edge," he was reported by The Malaysian Insider as saying.
A day earlier, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Malaysia will seek to extradite Sarawak Report founder Clare Rewcastle-Brown if police investigations determine she has a case to answer.
"Even though freedom of speech is celebrated here in Malaysia, any information that is altered or forged cannot be accepted. What more if the online news (on the website of) Clare Brown has bad intentions."
Ms Rewcastle-Brown, however, dismissed that possibility, saying the Malaysian government should have a more "articulate reason" if it wanted to extradite her to Malaysia to face charges of "meddling".
Malaysia yesterday also released an open letter from Foreign Minister Anifah Aman to the WSJ, criticising it for "woeful lack of knowledge and understanding of our country and its history". Datuk Seri Anifah criticised the WSJ for publishing an op-ed by jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim last week amid a possible lawsuit by Putrajaya against the New York-based international daily.
Meanwhile, the special task force probing 1MDB has made a fifth arrest - Tazri Talib, 27, a trading firm dispatch clerk, who yesterday was remanded for four days.
•Additional reporting by Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani