MALAYSIA — Former Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has vowed to take legal action against those who insinuate that he is corrupt.
This comes after allegations were made about his political party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), having received funds from contractors chosen under the Jana Wibawa program during his administration.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has since frozen two Bersatu bank accounts with a total balance of MYR40m (US$9m) in connection with the allegations. Other Bersatu leaders, including the party’s treasurer, have also been summoned by the MACC to have their statements recorded.
The MACC has been investigating the alleged embezzlement of funds used by the previous Perikatan Nasional (PN)-led government during the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020 to 2022. Almost all of the donors who contributed to the party’s accounts were contractors who were awarded government contracts during Muhyiddin’s term as prime minister from March 2020 to August 2021.
Muhyiddin, who is the president of his party and chairman of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) opposition bloc, denied taking any money from the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines during his time in office, and he informed the MACC that he is not guilty of any wrongdoing.
He suggested that the accusations against him were politically motivated to discredit him ahead of six state elections to be held this year, adding that those who want to tarnish his name should prove their claims.
“My lawyer is looking at taking legal action and we will not stop at that alone,” said Muhyiddin to reporters on Saturday (18 Feb) after launching a blood donation drive at a mall in Kuala Lumpur.
“I have been with the government for 50 years – I never had cases of misuse of power or bribery,”
“I follow the rules. I hold on to the law and I have principles.”
The Jana Wibawa program was specifically designed to assist Bumiputera, or Malay-Muslim, contractors during the Covid-19 pandemic. The program was proposed by Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Aziz, who was serving as the finance minister in Muhyiddin’s Cabinet when it was launched. He now holds the position of International Trade and Industry Minister in the cabinet of Datuk Seri Anwar.
“The proposal was brought to the Cabinet and approved. We implemented it by getting the Bumiputera Wholesale Association to submit the names of contractors approved by the Construction Industry Development Board,“ Muhyiddin said.
Muhyiddin emphasized that he had no involvement in establishing the eligibility criteria or awarding contracts under the Jana Wibawa program. He further stated that he was not aware of the companies that were selected for the program.
“I don’t even know the names of the companies that were chosen for Jana Wibawa,” he said.
“Even if I had approved it then, it would not be valid as I did not have the authority to do so.
On Thursday, Muhyiddin was called in by MACC for questioning over the Jana Wibawa case. But he said on Saturday that he was there as a witness, not a suspect.
Remarks criticized by MACC chief commissioner
A day later, MACC chief commissioner Tan Sri Azam Baki issued a statement to hit out at Muhyiddin’s remarks on the ongoing investigation into the Jana Wibawa program. Azam stated that it was inappropriate for any individual called to have their statement recorded to state their own conclusions, whether they were called as witnesses or suspects in the case.
According to Section 30(1)(a) of the MACC Act 2009, a commission’s officer is allowed to order any person to appear before him for the purpose of being questioned in relation to anything that may, in his opinion, assist in the investigation of an offense.
“The investigations are ongoing and it is inappropriate for any individual called to have their statement recorded to state their own conclusions, whether they were called as witnesses or suspects in the case,” he said.
“They should wait until the investigation is fully completed, before making any statements or comments,” he said.
Azam confirmed that Tengku Zafrul would be called in to have his statement taken as well.
“MACC will be summoning Tengku Zafrul to have his statement taken very soon, in relation to the Jana Wibawa project investigations,” he said.
According to a source of The New Straits Times, Muhyiddin was said to be a suspect in the Jana Wibawa project probe when he was called in to provide a statement at MACC.