PRIOR to the shock election defeat on May 9, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak enjoyed little or no criticism from the gamut of the Southeast Asian nation’s government-controlled mainstream media.
But six months after the embarrassing defeat — which saw the removal of the decades-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition and being slapped with dozens of graft charges — Najib is finding himself the subject of widespread derision, even from within his own political party, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno).
Umno-controlled Utusan Malaysia is the latest to slam the embattled former leader, calling him a liar over his response in an interview where he denied knowing the exact source of the billions in funds deposited into several personal accounts during his time as prime minister.
In an editorial, the influential Awang Selamat, a pseudonym used by Utusan’s editorial team said Umno members and the Malaysian people felt they had been fooled into thinking that the funds came from the Saudi Arabian government.
“It does not make sense that Najib did not know the source of the large funds, even more so after revelation upon revelation show that the money came from the Tanore Finance Corporation,” Awang Selamat said in his weekend edition column on Sunday, referring to the British Virgin-registered company with links to the scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund.
Awang Selamat said Najib’s Oct 26 interview with 101 East on Al-Jazeera revealed the extent of his dishonesty.
During the interview, Najib told Al-Jazeera journalist Mary Ann Jolley the initial deposits into his personal bank accounts came from Saudi Arabia and that he assumed the rest were from legitimate sources.
However, authorities from various countries, including the US Department of Justice, believed the funds came from money syphoned from 1MDB.
During the Al-Jazeera interview, Najib admitted he did not check the source or owner of the money but guessed it came from Saudi Arabia because King Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud had once guaranteed to support his government.
Najib, who launched 1MDB in 2009, lost his cool several times during the hour-long grilling with Jolley, but he confirmed things did go wrong with the sovereign wealth fund. He also admitted that he did not verify the source of RM2.1 billion (US$680million) that appeared in his accounts.
“The question is when I received the funds, was I aware of the source of the money…or whether the source of the money is in dispute as to who owns the fund? Certainly, in my capacity, I would not have access to banking knowledge.”
However, Awang Selamat was not satisfied with Najib’s latest explanation on the matter.
“Finally, his (Najib’s) lies all this while was exposed during his interview with Mary Ann Jolley in an interview with Al Jazeera recently.
“Najib must apologise to all Umno members for the fact that this is a lie that has wiped out the people’s confidence in BN’s leadership and ultimately led the component party to lose control (of the government),”
“Awang is reminded of an old saying that not all thieves are liars but all liars would always steal,” the newspaper said.