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Najib’s ultimatum to Cabinet on 1MDB: Stand with me or resign

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is said to have issued an ultimatum to his Cabinet, telling ministers to resign if they did not support him over the rehabilitation of debt-ridden state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), Utusan Malaysia reported today (June 1).

Najib’s ultimatum to Cabinet on 1MDB: Stand with me or resign

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak addresses delegates during his speech at the Malaysia's ruling party United Malays National Organisation's (UMNO) anniversary celebration in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Monday, May 11, 2015. Photo: AP

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is said to have issued an ultimatum to his Cabinet, telling ministers to resign if they did not support him over the rehabilitation of debt-ridden state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), Utusan Malaysia reported today (June 1).

Citing a Cabinet source, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) mouthpiece reported that none of the ministers had declared he or she would not support the Prime Minister on 1MDB.

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who was not present at last Friday’s Cabinet meeting when the ultimatum was issued, yesterday said he would support the ultimatum provided it fulfilled three conditions, highlighting a need for accountability and transparency in solving the company’s RM42 billion (S$15.4 billion) debt.

“Agree (with the ultimatum) with conditions (1) rationalisation of 1MDB, (2) accountability if there is wrongdoing, and (3), transparency on (conditions 1 and 2),” Mr Hishammuddin said on Twitter.

Mr Najib, who is also Finance Minister, was said to have issued the ultimatum soon after Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah finished laying out the roadmap for 1MDB’s restructuring at the Cabinet meeting.

“The Prime Minister told members of his Cabinet who were not with him on the 1MDB issue to resign, but not one person did so,” the source told the Malay daily.

In a separate statement, Tourism and Culture Minister Nazri Aziz yesterday downplayed the report that Mr Najib had given an ultimatum to the Cabinet, saying the Prime Minister practised inclusivity and wanted consensus from his colleagues.

“The PM said this at the meeting, ‘If somehow, some of you feel uncomfortable with this, please hand in or write (your resignation), and I will understand.’ If you were there, you would not feel like it was an ultimatum,” said Mr Nazri.

Mr Najib convened a special Cabinet meeting last Friday to unveil plans to restructure 1MDB, which Mr Hishammuddin did not attend as he was in Singapore for the annual defence forum Shangri-La Dialogue.

Utusan noted that Mr Najib’s ultimatum followed the statement by Barisan Nasional Backbenchers Club chairman Shahrir Samad, who last Tuesday urged ministers to resign if they did not agree with the Cabinet’s collective decision on 1MDB.

Mr Shahrir was expressing his agreement with UMNO lawmaker Razaleigh Hamzah, who said the entire Cabinet was collectively responsible for 1MDB’s controversies, which have sapped public confidence over the government’s handling and transparency over the debt-laden Finance Ministry-owned firm.

Others urged Cabinet members to publicly disclose their stand on the 1MDB controversy.

“(Mr Najib) should test his Cabinet’s loyalty by asking them to come out and counterattack Dr M on mainstream channels such as TV3 and newspapers,” former Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin said in his latest blog posting yesterday, referring to the recent diatribe against Mr Najib over 1MDB and other issues by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

In a similar vein, opposition Democratic Action Party leader Lim Kit Siang questioned if senior Cabinet members, including Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Minister for Rural and Regional Development Shafie Apdal — who appear to have distanced themselves from the 1MDB controversy — have accepted the decision to have the Cabinet take collective responsibility on the issue.

“Have they now swallowed their reservations so as to continue to be members of the Najib Cabinet?

“Are all 35 ministers in the Najib Cabinet prepared to announce publicly that they accept full collective responsibility for the 1MDB scandal and will ‘sink or swim’ with Najib on the issue?” Mr Lim asked in a statement yesterday. AGENCIES

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