Uproar in Malaysia over reports ex-PM Najib in '$32m govt land and house' deal

Najib Razak said he was only claiming the land deal as was his right as an ex-prime minister. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday (Nov 18) called for a review of the opposition's pact with the government, after Parliament was told that former premier Najib Razak would likely receive from the government a plot of land and house claimed to be worth RM100 million (S$32.5 million).

"This shocking decision forces us to review all forms of understanding that exists to date," Datuk Seri Anwar said in a statement.

The matter was never discussed with the opposition alliance during meetings with the government, he said in a Facebook post.

"The cabinet's act of 'gifting' land and a house to someone convicted by a court is clearly an immoral and nonsensical decision," he wrote.

"The people will surely not forget how the Pekan MP (Najib) forced the government and the citizens of Malaysia to shoulder a debt as high as RM32 billion due to the corruption and dishonesty of 1MDB," wrote Mr Anwar.

Najib, who has been convicted by a Malaysian court for corruption linked to state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, said in a Facebook post on Thursday that he was only claiming the land deal as was his right as a former prime minister.

The issue exploded in Parliament on Thursday at the second reading of Budget 2022, when former premier Mahathir Mohamad interjected during a speech by Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz, to ask: "There is an additional item in the budget which we were not made aware of earlier.

"There is a RM100 million allocation for a gift to the sixth prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to build a residential property."

Tun Dr Mahathir added, as quoted by New Straits Times newspaper: "How can the government allocate such gifts to a former prime minister; to a convicted person? During my tenure, I had not even once asked for a house and I depended on my pension."

The opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance led by Mr Anwar in September signed an agreement to back the government of Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob in Parliament, in return for reforms sought by the opposition. It is not immediately clear what PH would do next regarding the memorandum of understanding with the PM Ismail administration.

Datuk Seri Zafrul told Parliament that the Cabinet has discussed Najib's request for a plot of land and house - the first confirmation that such a request was actually made after weeks of speculation over the controversy.

Local media reported that the finance minister said the Cabinet had not finalised its decision on the matter, but evaded questions in Parliament on whether there was a preliminary agreement over the issue.

Najib, who was sentenced to 12 years' jail last year for corruption in the 1MDB case, has been allowed to stay out of prison pending his appeal and continues to be a Member of Parliament.

He has since been rehabilitating his image through social media. A strong win in Melaka would galvanise him politically.

Responding to the controversy, Najib on Thursday said in a Facebook post: "My office only asked to be given a residence after GE14 (14th general election in 2018) as allowed in the amended act (Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act)."

"The government gave me three plots of land to choose from, so I chose one.

"I did not ask for a RM100 million gift from the government, but housing is given to all former prime ministers," he said.

Najib said the RM100 million value was given by a news site linked to the Perikatan Nasional pact headed by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Najib said he applied for the land and house under a law that was enacted during Dr Mahathir's premiership in 2003. "He himself amended the law when he was the fourth prime minister," Najib wrote in his Facebook post.

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