At SRC trial, Najib uses Bahasa in apparent psywar with AG Tommy Thomas

Emmanuel Santa Maria Chin
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 10, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s cross examination by the prosecution in his RM42 million SRC International Sdn Bhd corruption trial began today with Attorney General (AG) Tan Sri Tommy Thomas leading the questioning.

As expected, since he gave his witness statement in Malay, Najib chose to respond using Bahasa Malaysia to most of Thomas’s questions that were in English.

Thomas previously conceded to a weak command of the national language.

Despite the apparent tactic, Najib switched to English when pressed to elaborate, regularly switching back and forth between languages as his visible preference for English overrode the apparent plan to stick to Bahasa Malaysia.

Wearing a wide grin, Thomas structured his line of questioning in a manner that spanned from the very beginning of Najib’s political career where the first point saw him asking the latter his age when he was first elected Pekan MP.

The AG then brought Najib through topics which saw the former prime minister detail all the ministerial portfolios of state and federal levels he was appointed into, up to the point he was elected out of office in 2018.

Najib interjected to Thomas’ questions, before asking High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali about their relevance to the case, before being told to comply.

Among others, Najib was asked about his grasp about the concept of conflicts of interest while holding positions of power, with Thomas asking why Najib chose to hold the Finance portfolio when he was already the prime minister at the time.

Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas is seen at the Kuala Lumpur High Court December 10, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Najib explained that he was confident in his capabilities to manage both portfolios and listed several achievements he attained while holding both positions.

Thomas: So you agreed that the prime minister already has an awesome responsibility, why did you appoint yourself as the minister of finance, when you were already the prime minister, the head of Umno and Barisan (Nasional), why did you assume the office of the minister of finance?

Najib: Because I thought I had the capability to develop the economy of the country, and for nine years, if we see the big picture, the macro figures, it was clear that our country developed from the GDP(gross domestic profits) when I stopped (serving) as the prime minister. I left in 2018 and in 2017 the economy grew at 5.9 per cent and during my tenure as the Minister of Finance we grew faster than the four Asian tigers. We had the longest bull run in history; it was not spectacular, but we grew steadily On welfare of the rakyat, a lot of people enjoyed better benefits during my time, the infrastructure.

I am not bragging, I want to say I have delivered when I appointed myself, the fact remains our debt as a percentage of the GDP was declining.

Thomas: What qualifications did you see in yourself to appoint yourself as the minister of finance?

Najib: I had a foundation in economics and served as a mentri besar so I knew about finance management of a state. I am also interested to increase my knowledge in economy, so I did not see any reason not to appoint myself as the minister of finance. From achievements I can show my performance is very good when I was the minister of finance.

Najib then pointed out how he was not the first prime minister to hold both the portfolios, citing current premiere Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former head Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, also adding how he had a second finance minister with two more deputies appointed to divide their duties.

Questions from Thomas also established how Najib, considering his extended run in the federal administration, was familiar with the management and overseeing of government linked companies and the role of the finance ministry and its related bodies and departments.

The morning session then ended with Thomas going through with Najib on the general practices someone would face when managing a personal bank account, from the account opening, to cross checks of monthly statements, cheque issuance and opening of a fixed deposit account.

The cross examination continues this afternoon.


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