From Malaysiakini news
Don't be daft, Al-Jubeir has not cleared Najib!
COMMENT | Has Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir settled Najib Razak’s RM2.6 billion scandal and cleared the prime minister of wrongdoing by merely saying, “We are aware of the donation and it is a genuine donation with nothing expected in return”?
I certainly don’t think so. And I’m sure neither would any individual with grey matter in their brain.
Al-Jubeir said that in response to a question by a Bernama reporter at the 13th Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul on April 15. But I think the reporter asked the wrong question.
She asked Al-Jubeir, “Are you aware of the background and the details regarding the donation to the prime minister of Malaysia?” (I may not have got it exactly word-for-word because the sound quality of the video I saw of the press conference is not all that clear, but I think my rendering of it is pretty close.)
Of course he would be aware! Unless he was someone who had his head stuck in the sand. So, what a question to ask!
Besides, he had just come from a meeting with none other than Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak on the sidelines of the summit. He would probably have been suitably briefed. So what could the reporter expect him to say?
Well, apart from saying he was aware of the “donation”, he added, “We are also fully aware that the attorney-general (AG) of Malaysia has thoroughly investigated the matter and found no wrongdoing. So, as far as we are concerned, the matter is closed.”
Speaking as a former journalist, I would have posed the question differently to Al-Jubeir. I would have asked him, “Can you confirm that a donation of US$681 million was made to Najib by Saudi Arabia and that it came from the Saudi royal family?”
His answer to such a question might get us somewhere. Would he then say yes, the donation was from the royal family?
If so, I would proceed to ask him how he could demonstrate conclusively that the donation did come from the Saudi royal family, and why they did not issue a public statement when the scandal broke out to affirm this donation - in order to save Najib from embarrassment.
I would also ask him why he was now saying something different from what he had said more than two months ago to the New York Times, which reported on February 5:
“In Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said that he accepted the attorney general’s opinion that there had been no wrongdoing, but he also said that he did not think that the money had come from the Saudi government or that it was a political donation.
“‘It is a private Saudi citizen, I believe, and the funds went to an investment in Malaysia,’ he said in an interview on Thursday.”
From “investment” to “donation” - that’s a big leap. And notice that in February, he said he believed that the money came from a private citizen, not the Saudi government.
Where does the truth actually lie? Why is the Saudi minister flip-flopping like the Malaysian government tends to do?
More grilling needed
It’s obvious that for us to be convinced, we need to further grill Al-Jubeir to get the important answers and elaborate, truthful information from him. Until we achieve that, we cannot possibly jump to the conclusion that his statement has cleared Najib.
And yet we have Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin promptly declaring on April 16 that Al-Jubeir’s statement has resolved the RM2.6 billion donation issue involving Najib.
He said, “The Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister has confirmed that the donation is a contribution that does not expect anything in return. So it is valid and the issue is settled.”
How shallow that is! Just because of the say-so of the Saudi minister, the case is “settled”? Can a billion-ringgit scandal be settled so easily? Does Khairy lack grey matter?
How can Al-Jubeir’s statement be “valid” when it contradicted what he said in February?
In February, why didn’t Khairy accept Al-Jubeir’s word as gospel (as he does now) and announce that based on it, the AG must be wrong in declaring that it was a donation and that it came from the Saudi royal family? Why didn’t Khairy demand then that the AG investigate the case further to get at the truth?
Reacting as he does now, Khairy comes across looking like he’s involved in a scheme to cover things up.
So does the AG himself, Mohamad Apandi Ali. On April 17, he responded to Al-Jubeir’s statement in a similarly addlepated fashion.
He said he was “relieved” by Al-Jubeir’s confirmation that the donation to Najib came from Saudi Arabia.
“For me the issue is settled,” he told Utusan Malaysia. “There have been calls for further investigation, but I don’t feel that it is necessary. There is already a statement from the donor, so what is there left to be investigated?”
In Apandi’s case, the response appears to be a convenient one as well.
Because, to be sure, Al-Jubeir has confirmed only half of Apandi’s declaration about the “donation”. Al-Jubeir did not confirm that it came from the Saudi royal family. But Apandi conveniently overlooks that.
He is also wrong in saying that Al-Jubeir’s statement came from the donor. It does not. Al-Jubeir does not represent the donor, and he was not conveying an official communiqué from the Saudi government.
His response to the Bernama reporter was off-the-cuff. It was not a statement that had been officially issued by the Saudi government. How much clout does an off-the-cuff statement have?
Is it enough to dismiss a huge scandal without providing any evidence to back up what was said?
On top of everything else, there are still so many questions left unanswered.
Why did Najib keep the “donation” secret from even his fellow Umno leaders? Isn’t Khairy himself peeved that he knew nothing about it until the scandal was exposed? How can he still defend Najib after the fact? Why does he not instead question the whole issue rigorously?
And what about the deposits other than the RM2.6 billion allegedly made to Najib’s account? Is that aspect of the scandal “settled” too?
I reiterate, Al-Jubeir has contributed nothing conclusive or even significant to the scandal surrounding Najib. The case is not closed. If our officials entrusted with the integrity of our nation do not probe it further to arrive at nothing but the truth, if all they want to do is to protect their master, they are committing the worst sin of public office.
Meanwhile, they should stop looking like dimwits and ass-kissers. It does not become such trustees of the nation’s well-being.
KEE THUAN CHYE is the author of bestsellers ‘Unbelivably Stupid!’ and ‘Unbelievably Stupid Too!’