KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has hit out at Umno division heads who have criticised him over a controversy involving political donations, saying that as party president, his actions were in the interests of the party.
"Whatever I do as Umno president, even if I receive funds, it is all for the party. I have been helping divisions, including providing them with monthly allocations to run their offices," he was quoted saying by The Star on Saturday.
His comments came amid public unhappiness and criticism from some members of his party over a massive transfer of funds made to his personal bank accounts as part of political donations.
Malaysia's anti-graft unit said earlier this week that the RM2.6 billion (S$963 million) deposited into Najib's private bank accounts were donations from unnamed Middle Eastern sources and not from the debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
The controversy - first exposed in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report last month - has led to both Najib and the opposition challenging each other to reveal the sources of their political funding.
"Umno, under my tenure, has conducted many corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, sent people to perform the Haj and repaired dilapidated houses," he said.
"What is happening is that they keep quiet when they get the money but when I'm being attacked, everyone keeps quiet," he said when opening the Bandar Tun Razak Umno meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
The 1MDB saga has also led to Najib sacking Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and issuing a Cabinet reshuffle. The Home Ministry has also suspended two publications that reported extensively on the alleged financial mismanagement of 1MDB, whose chief adviser is Najib.
Najib said he was not an autocratic leader and need not be surrounded by "yes men", adding that he appreciated differences of opinion as it would provide a different perspective to a situation or issue.
"We can exchange ideas and even argue in meetings but when the leadership has decided, we must stand behind the party. We must show a united front," he added.
Najib also dismissed claims that his wife Rosmah Mansor was involved in running the country, the Malaysiakini website reported.
He said he had launched a lawsuit against Democratic Action Party parliamentarian Nga Kor Ming over claims that Rosmah had participated in a Cabinet meeting after Nga circulated a photo showing the First Lady with Najib and several other ministers.
Najib said the photo took place during an official trip to China and involved a discussion he and his wife had with the officials over whether they could return to Malaysia to attend the funeral of former Perak sultan Azlan Shah.
"It is not true that my wife is involved in the country's administration," he said.