Lindsay Murdoch, South-East Asia correspondent
Sydney Morning Herald
March 20, 2016
Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak has declared he is not a crook despite refusing to explain how hundreds of millions of dollars turned up in his personal bank accounts.
“I will not take the people’s property, don’t think I am a crook … I am prime minister for the people,” he told a political rally in Kuantan, a city on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia.
Facing a growing movement aiming to remove him from office, 62 year-old Mr Najib lashed out at his critics, saying they are trying to tarnish his image while he struggled to defend people’s welfare.
“You already know me, I am not like what is said by people over there … if I had wanted to rob, I would have robbed the forest here long ago.”
Mr Najib has refused to clarify how almost $1 billion came to be deposited into his personal bank accounts in 2013 or to explain what happened to millions that remains unaccounted for.
Loyalists in his government have claimed the money was a legal donation from Saudi Arabia.
But The Wall Street Journal has reported the money flowed through a series of international transactions from the heavily indebted 1Malaysia Development Berhad state fund, which Mr Najib set up in 2009 and oversees through an advisory board.
The newspaper has also claimed that more than $1.4 billion was sent into Mr Najib’s accounts since 2011 – millions more than previously identified.
Time highlights Malaysia corruption
Mr Najib, who has had close ties to successive Australian governments, made the comments as Time Magazine named Malaysia second on a list of five countries, after Brazil, where corruption scandals have engulfed governments.
He has made clear in recent weeks he intends to fight growing opposition and disappointment in his leadership while shoring up support among powerful division chiefs of his ruling United Malays National Organisation, who have benefited from decades of government largesse.
Mr Najib has cracked down on critics in UMNO and the media, strengthened the government’s relationship with conservative Islamic leaders and portrayed a Citizen’s Declaration signed by his foes as a conspiracy to topple to his government.
Despite declaring previous anti-Najib rallies illegal police in Kuala Lumpur, police say hundreds of protesters who rallied outside the office of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday would not be prosecuted.
Dr Mahathir, who led the country for 22 years, is one of Mr Najib’s fiercest critics.
“The thing is, when all the NGOs came together, it is not a protest, it is not an illegal gathering as they just wanted to pass a memorandum to (Dr Mahathir),” said deputy police chief Vijaya Rao.
The protest was led by an UMNO division chief.
Lawyers call for Attorney-General to step down
On Saturday more than 700 lawyers attending the Malaysian Bar’s Annual meeting called for Attorney-General Apandi Ali to step down for closing corruption investigations into 1MDB in January.
Investigations into the fund are underway in the US, Singapore, Hong Kong and Switzerland.
French investigators are also probing corruption allegations relating to Malaysia’s purchase of French/Spanish submarines when Mr Najib was defence minister.
The allegations are linked to the gruesome murder of a glamorous 28 year-old Mongolian translator by two of Mr Najib’s bodyguards in 2006.
Mr Najib denies any wrongdoing in that case that has dogged his seven years in power.