Thursday, March 31, 2016

Four Corners report proves donation to Najib was from Saudi royals: Malaysia govt

A government spokesperson says the donation was a gift from the Saudi royal family to promote moderate Islam, and combat terrorism and extremism. 

By Melissa Goh, 
Malaysia Bureau Chief, Channel NewsAsia 

30 Mar 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: A report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) investigative programme Four Corners confirms that a donation to Prime Minister Najib Razak's personal accounts was a gift from the Saudi royal family, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.

Multiple lawful authorities have concluded the same after "exhaustive investigations", it added.

The funds were meant for Mr Najib to use as he saw fit to promote moderate Islam, and combat terrorism and extremism, the PMO said in a statement on Wednesday (Mar 30). This includes the Global Movement of Moderates initiatives that was mooted by Mr Najib at the UN General Assembly in 2010.

[I don't really like to comment on this issue as this regards the Head of Govt of another country and Singaporeans tend to mind their own business. Now if the foreign PM were to comment disparagingly about Singapore (like Dr M. used to do), then yes, he would be fair game.

Najib however, has maintained good relations and allowed Singapore and Malaysia ties to grow. So we have no interest in losing a "friend" like Najib.

BUT... a person is known both by the friends he make, as well as the enemies. Similarly for countries. And really, I think as one of the most corruption-free countries in the world, having a "friend" like Najib is... embarrassing. We might well be assumed to be guilty by association. And really, if he were clever about his corruption, that would be one thing. If he were discreet about his corruption, that would at least be plausibly deniable. 

But he is not. So it becomes the huge stinking dead elephant in the room.]

The PMO response came in the wake of the Four Corners report on Monday that quoted a leaked letter from Saudi royal family regarding the transfer of funds. ABC's report stated that US$375 million was deposited into Mr Najib's accounts, in addition to US$681 million that were reported earlier by Wall Street Journal back in July 2015.

The funds reportedly came from parties such as the Saudi finance ministry, Prince Turki of Saudi Arabia, and SRC International executive and former 1MDB chief investment officer Nik Faizal Ariff Kamil.

"The letter makes clear that the gift was to be used as the Prime Minister saw fit; would be transferred directly or through the donor's companies, and no benefit was expected in return," the PMO said.

It did not mention the actual amount of donations received by Mr Najib.

Opposition members of parliament have renewed calls for a royal commission of inquiry to thoroughly investigate the source of funds and how it was used, even though Mr Najib has already been cleared of wrongdoing by the Attorney-General.

Said Klang MP Charles Santiago: "Is the Prime Minister saying the donation exceeds US$1 billion now from US$681 million? How was this spent? Which ministries, which departments did this go to? There has to be a royal inquiry on this in order to get to the bottom of it."

UMNO MPs have defended Mr Najib, saying political donations are not illegal in the country.

"Anyone can give donation to political parties, there is no law to say it is an offence,” said Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman. Mr Najib maintains the money was not from state investment firm 1MDB and was never used for personal gain.

[Not to tell the MACC how to do their jobs, but I think MP Tajuddin should be investigated. He seemed very comforted by the idea that political donations are not illegal.]

In a separate statement released on Wednesday, Malaysia’s foreign affairs ministry blasted ABC and its report, saying it was "regretful" that it "conveniently ignored" the many official statements by the Malaysian government to clarify the issues pertaining to the donation.

In response to the temporary detention of ABC reporters in Kuching, the ministry reiterated that the duo were detained as they failed to follow police instructions not to cross security lines.

[Online Comment:

You know the PM is either extremely naive or extremely corrupt when he can say with a straight face "no benefit was expected in return". 
It DOESN'T matter even if it is true.
You are not an ordinary individual. You are the far king HEAD of the govt. You do not get to receive DONATIONS, especially grossly large amounts of donations from FOREIGN powers into your PERSONAL account.
The problem is NOT whether you can PROVE you are not beholden to these foreign powers. The problem is the dignity of your office, the integrity of your office and your person, and standards you are setting for politicians and government officials.
Nothing wrong? Which is why you kept it quiet! Nothing to be ashamed about? Which is why you did not want it known. Which is why you stymied investigations, dissembled, and evaded direct questions. Which is why the "donation" were channeled through different organisations.

Or is it the fact that even if you were not ashamed of having a price, the Foreign Powers were at least embarrassed to be able to buy the Head of another country's Government?

Nothing illegal about political donations? Of course! If it were illegal, how many Malaysian politicians would not be facing charges? Illegality is your only concern? So the fact that the far king PM of Malaysia is getting money surreptitiously from the Saudi Foreign Ministry does not diminish the honour and dignity of your office? So the fact that the PM of Malaysia is getting political donation from foreign powers does not bring into question the integrity of the PM and his office? So the perception that Malaysia's "moderate" govt is being propped up by foreign powers does not impugned on the pride and dignity of the Malaysian people? Does not throw into question the legitimacy of your govt?
I salute you. When you are so corrupt that you can just wave this off as "nothing illegal" and have no inkling of the disrepute and dishonour you bring to your country, you are well and truly lost.

But I bet if the DAP were to receive a donation from the US State Dept to promote "True Democracy" in Malaysia, you would be all over them for being puppets of the US.

"No benefit was expected in return"? So if we were to track the news from M'sia, we will not find that prior to the donation, Malaysia (UMNO) was ambivalent about Saudi's influence on Malaysia's practice of Islam, and after the donation UMNO did not become more favourable to Arab culture and tradition so much so that the Sultan of Johor felt the need to speak out in defence of Malaysia's culture and tradition? 
The above is a good summary of the issue. It is not simply about legality. It is about morality and what some high level SG civil servants would call "optics" (I hate these fad words. "Optics" refer to public perception, or how it looks to the public). 

Some of you may remember the HPL Nassim Jade case in 1996 (go Google it) - where condo units were sold to LKY and his family members during a soft launch at a (slightly) higher than normal discount. The discount amounted to about $1m, for a total transaction of over $10m (about 7% discount). 

This was irregular (failure to secure shareholder's agreement), and had the hint of favourable or irregular trading. But it made for bad optics. ] 

No comments: