Najib’s biggest problem? He was ‘foolishly’ advised

DATUK Seri Najib Razak was constantly ill-advised and that, according to a former minister, resulted in his downfall.

Former Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low said there were several instances where Najib was told “to do the right thing” but he held back instead.

So was Najib advised by fools?

“I would say he was not given the right advice by the people who were advising him. Who are these people? I’m not part of his inner circle, so I can’t name names but I think I may have a rough idea who had been foolishly advising Najib.”

Low, who was Transparency International-Malaysia president before occupying the ministerial position, said he had in 2015 suggested that the controversial 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) audit be made public.

“It was just before a Cabinet meeting in 2015 when I told Najib that we should audit 1MDB and that this should be made public. That was my stand. He said ‘yes, no problem’.

“He then presented the idea during the Cabinet meeting and the Cabinet was fully supportive of the audit. In fact, it was Najib who announced that the findings of the audit would be made public.”

Instead, the report was classified as secret on Jan 22, 2016 and it was only on May 15, 2018 Auditor-General Tan Sri Madinah Mohamad announced the document had been reclassified as an “open document” and made available at the Audit Department’s website (www.audit.gov.my).

“I believe somebody had foolishly advised Najib not to make the report public. Thus the report was classified as a secret under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) then,” said Low.

“That, to me, was a foolish thing to do.”

“In today’s world nothing can be kept secret. The public was eager to know the findings given the controversy the company courted. It was only right to disclose the audit.

Asked why he didn’t say anything earlier, Low said: “I’ve always said that the audit must be made public. The media has even quoted me saying this in 2015. It’s not like I’ve changed my stand. My stand has always been the same.”

“But it was the Cabinet which decided to classify it as a secret and I, as a Cabinet minister, have to abide by it. This is how things work.”

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said had in 2016 said the report was under the OSA to ensure there was no leakage of information throughout the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) proceedings. This despite opposition leaders urging the then government to declassify the report following what they claimed was a flawed presentation of the PAC findings on 1MDB.

“When people say I did nothing, they are wrong. I did express my views,” said Low.