Najib chides Umno leaders for not backing him on funds issue

He urges party members to fight flurry of 'false news' on social media

PM Najib said the "poison" in social media is more dangerous than protests such as this yesterday in Kuala Lumpur. 
PM Najib said the "poison" in social media is more dangerous than protests such as this yesterday in Kuala Lumpur.  PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has hit out at those Umno divisional chiefs who failed to support him in the controversy over the party's funding and called on all party members to fight the flurry of "false news" on social media, which he deemed even more dangerous than public protests.

Datuk Seri Najib, noting that it was his responsibility as party chief to raise funds and disburse them to the divisions, yesterday chided party leaders for keeping silent over the controversy surrounding the massive transfer of funds to his personal bank accounts.

"What is happening is that they keep quiet when they get the money but when I'm being attacked, everyone keeps quiet," he said at the opening of the Bandar Tun Razak Umno meeting yesterday.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) last Wednesday said RM2.6 billion (S$920 million) deposited into Mr Najib's accounts were donations from unnamed Middle Eastern sources and not from the debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as alleged in various media reports.

The Prime Minister also urged his party members to arm themselves with social media, saying Umno would dominate the cyber world if all three million members became active users.

"Street demonstrations may not threaten Umno, but if poison (flows) through social media... hundreds of thousands of persons are able to read it and it enters their minds. This is the new threat to Umno's strength," he said .

Some 400 journalists, lawyers and members of civil society groups yesterday held a peaceful rally in Kuala Lumpur to protest against the three-month suspension of publications The Edge Weekly and The Edge Financial Daily, reported the Malaysian Insider. These had reported extensively on the 1MDB financial scandal.

Faced with calls from the opposition to put an end to the controversy by clarifying the donations, Mr Najib said he would disclose Umno's accounts on condition that the opposition did the same. "Is the opposition that taintless? If they want to know everything, they have to explain where their funds are coming from... Do not only accuse me and Umno while they are gleefully accepting (funds)."

Stung by accusations that he had surrounded himself with "yes" men after he replaced four ministers, together with his deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who had criticised him publicly for the 1MDB debacle, Mr Najib said he appreciated a different perspective to a situation or issue.

But Tan Sri Muhyiddin yesterday called on Umno not to remain silent, addding that he would continue to voice out on issues affecting the country.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday said the sudden transfers of two MACC investigators "has got nothing to do with the actions taken by police on the agency". Datuk Seri Zahid was referring to police probes of MACC - which is investigating 1MDB - for leaks of information on the firm to the media.

Umno Youth chief and Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin yesterday called the transfers "strange and disappointing" and urged that the MACC be allowed to carry out its duties, reported local media. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Paul Low also spoke against the move.

Separately, the MACC's consultation and corruption prevention panel demanded that the two officers be returned to the agency.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 09, 2015, with the headline Najib chides Umno leaders for not backing him on funds issue. Subscribe