By P Prem Kumar
KUALA LUMPUR (AA) - An aide to Malaysia's prime minister has called for the Wall Street Journal to be investigated for taking sides in Malaysia's politics and internal affairs, with the newspaper releasing another report Friday alleging impropriety in a probe into Najib Razak's affairs.
The journal has claimed that billions of Ringgit have been channeled from debt-ridden state wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad to personal bank accounts belonging to the premier, but Malaysia’s Attorney General Apandi Ali has ruled out wrongdoing by Razak, claiming around $700 discovered in his accounts was a “political donation".
On Friday, Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, the principal press secretary to Razak, underlined that journalism should be about independently reporting news based on verified sources and facts, and claimed that the WSJ practice was totally the opposite
"Instead, the WSJ has become a willing vehicle for the propaganda of the prime minister's political opponents who have openly declared their intent to unseat the democratically elected government," he said in a statement.
On Friday, the WSJ released a new report alleging that Razak was not even interviewed by Malaysian investigators with regard to the "political donation".
It claimed that investigations cleared the prime minister of any wrongdoing due to political pressure, and there was a complete lack of transparency.
Ahmad, however, said that the investigative process was made publicly, with wide coverage given when Razak was interviewed by the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission for multiple hours Dec. 5, 2015.
"The prime minister gave his full cooperation to the investigators, and publicly instructed all relevant bodies in the government to do so as well," he said.
He added that the media outlet not only deliberately ignored these key facts, but also lied and said the prime minister wasn't interviewed.
"This shows their biased agenda and continues the WSJ's consistent pattern with its Malaysia reporting," he said.
"They [the WSJ] rely only on anonymous sources and smears by [former prime minister] Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his new allies in the opposition parties."
In July 2015, international probes into 1MBD claimed that billions of Ringgit was channeled from it to personal bank accounts belonging to the premier.
The Wall Street Journal and whistle blower site Sarawak Report released reports quoting documents, which they claimed to be from the ongoing 1MDB probe, claiming $700 million (or 2.67 billion Ringgit) moved among 1MDB-linked government agencies, banks and entities before finally ending up in Razak’s personal accounts in five separate deposits.
Razak immediately said that he had not swindled funds for personal gain -- as alleged by political opponents -- be they from 1MDB, the finance ministry's SRC International -- a former 1MDB subsidiary -- or other entities.
A month later, the Attorney-General Chambers ruled that the funds were political donations to the Razak-led UMNO for the party to remain in power during the last general election.
Politicians within UMNO proudly declared that the funds came from "Middle East Royals" who wanted UMNO to retain control.
Razak, however, kept silent on the matter, saying political donations were confidential and he would only reveal the donors if opposition parties agreed to follow suit.
On Jan. 26, Malaysia’s Attorney General Apandi Ali, ruled out wrongdoing by Razak in connection with the “political donation".
In February, however, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister expressed doubt to the New York Times that the funds were a political donation from Saudi rulers.
“It is a private Saudi citizen, I believe, and the funds went to an investment in Malaysia,” Adel al-Jubeir said.