Saturday, March 17, 2012

Malaysia's PM Najib accused of misusing funds

By Channel NewsAsia's Malaysia Bureau Chief Melissa Goh 

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's political leaders continue to face accusations of corruption and misuse of funds as a general election looms in the country.

The latest involves Prime Minister Najib Razak as the opposition accuses him of using taxpayers money to pay for lavish personal parties.

Stepping up the attacks, the opposition produced in parliament another banquet event order from Shangri-la hotel that was catered last July for Prime Minister Najib's birthday for US$26,000.

The amount was billed to the Prime Minister's office and stated "private" in contrast to the banquet order for his daughter's engagement party that was not specifically indicated.

Although Shangri-la in a statement clarified that the entire cost of US$135,000 for the engagement was settled by Prime Minister Najib, the opposition wants proof.

They questioned how Mr Najib, who draws less than US$10,000 a month, can afford a banquet at almost US$200 per person and the menu includes wagyu beef and oyster mornay for VIPS.

PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said: "This is a new standard. We are going into a new era where public office bearers must be seen whiter than white. It's not enough just to issue bare denials."

The prime minister's office has issued a statement saying that Mr Najib and his family have personally paid for the engagement party and no public funds was used. They also want Mr Rafizi to apologise for making allegations which are false and defamatory.

Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders said this is a deliberate attempt to smear the Prime Minister's reputation.

Minister of Agriculture and Agro Based Industry Noh Omar said: "Now that the election is near, the opposition has resorted to their old tactics of slandering and spreading lies and accusing BN leaders of corruption."

Incidentally, the agriculture minister himself is facing pressures to step down after he is accused of misusing public funds meant for farmers.

He has claimed he has nothing to do with the cows and condos scandal that saw Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Shahrizat Abdul Jalil stepping down. He has since filed a defamation suit against the opposition

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