Imprisoned Malaysia ex-PM Najib hits the books, going for PhD in economics

Najib Razak has been serving a 12-year jail term for graft over funds linked to the 1MDB state fund since August 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

Currently behind bars over 1MDB-related convictions, former Malaysia prime minister Najib Razak is not idling his hours away in Kajang Prison. Instead, he is hitting the books, according to Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

“Najib is now filling his time by continuing his studies at the post-graduate level,” he told Sin Chew Daily, adding that Najib is pursuing a course from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Najib is registered for a PhD in economics, Malaysiakini reported.

“In Kajang Prison, there are even those who have completed their Masters and PhD. Many people do not know this.”

Najib, Malaysia’s sixth prime minister, has been serving a 12-year jail term for graft over funds linked to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund since August 2022. He is the first premier in the country to have been sent to prison after leaving office.

Najib previously faced scrutiny over his education credentials, prompting Britain’s Nottingham University to confirm that he was an industrial economics graduate in 1974.

He has also received honorary doctorates from Malaysian and foreign universities, including Ohio University, Monash University and Japan’s Meiji University.

Mr Saifuddin confirmed that Najib’s media team was keeping his social media accounts active, with his Facebook posts and tweets earning hundreds of thousands of views on a near daily basis.

Najib remains the most popular Malaysian politician on Twitter with more than 4.1 million followers. In comparison, current premier Anwar Ibrahim is followed by around 1.7 million users on the microblogging platform.

“He is physically imprisoned in Kajang but he has his own media team. I am told they have his username and password and they can post his thoughts on social media.

“But whether he has access to gadgets, the answer is no. Take it from me, the most authoritative person on this matter,” said the home minister.

Mr Saifuddin added that Najib is free to express his views, noting that Mr Anwar had managed to do so too when he was imprisoned while engaging himself with classic literature.

“There are no laws stopping him from giving his views. Like Datuk Seri Anwar previously was also in prison. His method was when he had the chance to be outside to attend court cases, he would make spontaneous statements or he would make notes to be published.

“It’s the same. Najib is physically in prison but his mind is still free,” he noted.

Mr Anwar was previously jailed for separate charges of sodomy and corruption, first in 1999, a year after he was sacked as deputy premier. He was officially pardoned by Malaysia’s King in 2018, allowing him to return to politics before his appointment as Prime Minister in 2022.

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