Anti-graft organisation founder says Najib must come clean on RM2.6 billion donation
Transparency International (TI) co-founder Michael J. Hershman said Najib's inability to address questions about the donation had affected the prime minister's credibility.
“My advice to the prime minister would be not to cover up, not to obstruct justice because it doesn't work.
“Tell the truth about where did the money come from and address the accusation. And if he did something wrong, then asked for forgiveness and face the consequences,” Hershman told the audience at the 16th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), which Malaysia is hosting. He said that such delays would not make the allegations go away.
“The truth will come out and in my experience the sooner it comes out the better it is for the accused and for the country,” he added.
Hershman said the explanations given so far were not good enough.
“If it came from the Middle East, who did it come from? When did it come and for what purpose? These are very simple questions,” said Hershman, who is also president and CEO of the Fairfax Group.
He added that since Najib had control of the account, he must know where it came from.
“There is no reason for a panel for investigations. Just tell the truth. Get it out in the public,” he said.
Najib's initial reaction to The Wall Street Journal's report of the money in his accounts in early July was to deny taking funds from debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) for personal gain.
Later, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) said that the funds were transferred to Najib as a political donation from a Middle Eastern donor.
Najib and other Umno leaders then began saying that the funds were for the party's interests, and that he as party president had the authority to hold the money in trust on behalf of Umno.
But Hershman said Najib had missed the opportunity to speak to a global audience at the IACC.
“He has missed the opportunity to explain the truth here. I respect him and I believe in his integrity... I am still willing to believe in him but he has got to come forward and tell the truth,” said the TI official.
He also pointed out that Najib had done a lot for the MACC, adding that it was one of the best-funded, largest anti-graft agencies in the world and was due in part to Najib's policies.
Hershman is one of the panelists at the session entitled “Fighting Corruption by Authorities: What worked and what went wrong” at the IACC which is held at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.
The three-day conference attended by 1,000 delegates from 130 countries ends tomorrow. – September 3, 2015.