While Umno leaders continue to insist that the US$700 million (RM2.6 billion) donated to Datuk Seri Najib Razak is not unusual, international speakers at a global anti-graft conference said the entire affair was suspicious and required action.
They told The Malaysian Insider that it was in the country’s best interests for the prime minister to disclose how he came to receive the money, and the possible strings attached to it.
They noted that if similar cases happened in other countries, when found out, the politicians were either charged or left office.
European lawmaker Ana Maria Gomes said that any other politician would have resigned if they were in Najib’s place.
“He needs everything to be clarified. In my opinion, anyone who have been under so serious charges, the first thing (they would do) in Europe is resign and then make their case.
“Prove you are innocent and face the consequences,” Gomes said when met at the sidelines after speaking at the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Putrajaya yesterday.
She said that in her own country, Portugal, a minister had been subject to a serious allegation several years ago and he immediately stepped down.
An investigation later revealed that the allegations were not true, she said.
“That was a patriotic and a decent thing to do. In Malaysia, in view of the allegations against him, there’s no credibility for him to stay in office.”
She added that the action taken against individuals investigating the funds raised suspicions and should not have happened.
“This doesn’t smell good at all, the way the prime minister is acting and reacting towards these serious charges and to the popular demand that he resign.”
Greenpeace International director Kumi Naidoo said that the US$700 million donation was “highly suspicious and highly irregular”, and noted that authorities would have sprung into action if it involved an ordinary citizen.
Najib’s explanation that it was a “political donation” was inadequate, as too much money was involved, he added.
“There are certain small island states in the world that use that amount for their annual budget. This is a massive amount of money and it cannot go unexplained,” he said when met at the sidelines after he spoke at the conference yesterday.
“Was it given for the government or the prime minister to do something for the donor, who might include a particular policy or contract? It’s not a normal private gift, even by rich people’s standards.”
Naidoo advised Najib to come forward and explain clearly who he received the funds from, what it was used for, and the nature of his relations with the donor.
“I think failure to do that will leave him highly compromised and just questions the democracy of Malaysia.”
A real democracy
Naidoo, a human rights activist from South Africa, confirmed that similar cases happened in other countries, but when found out, the politicians were either charged or left office.
“In some cases they stayed in power, but those that stay in power are not from countries we would call democracies or real democracies.
“And I want to believe Malaysia is a real democracy,” he said.
He added that he had observed the Bersih 4 rally in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend and was impressed by how peaceful the protesters were.
“I would urge people who are protesting to continue to maintain their dignified, peaceful posture. They have a right to be heard even if it causes discomfort to those in power.”
Lise Stensrud, anti-corruption policy director of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), urged the public to continue pressuring the government over the funds.
“This is something the population should react to, and they should try to demand justice. A huge amount of money going somewhere where it’s not supposed to be.
“The government is serving the people and not the opposite,” she said when met at the sidelines yesterday.
Kuala Lumpur is hosting the ongoing IACC and Najib was to have given the keynote address yesterday.
But Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low said he advised Najib to pull out from officiating IACC in Putrajaya yesterday in case the environment turned “hostile”.
The conference at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre ends tomorrow.
Touted as a premier global gathering of anti-corruption stakeholders, the IACC is held once every two years and this year it drew 1,000 delegates from 130 countries. – September 3, 2015. (Malaysian Insider)