The opposition leader trains his legal guns on the Umno-linked daily over a report that alleged he instructed a bank CEO to transfer millions into several accounts in 1999.
PETALING JAYA: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim plans to haul the Umno-owned New Straits Times to court over an article which alleged that he gave orders to a bank CEO to transfer millions into several accounts.
PKR vice-president N Surendran said he was currently drafting a letter of demand asking the English daily to withdraw the allegation, print a correction and apologise on its subsequent front page for the Tuesday article. He said the letter would be sent soon.
“Anwar is now taking legal action because of the front-page story ‘Anwar gave order’. It [the allegation made] is totally false. We want them to retract the article and apologise or see us in court,” Surendran told FMT, when asked about calls for Anwar to come clean.
The lawyer, who complained that NST was “becoming more like Utusan Malaysia”, said the article was “false, irresponsible and politically motivated”.
Surendran said Anwar was also demanding an undertaking from the NST not to publish any further such false allegations and would claim damages.
“The news report itself states that investigators found no evidence to support the allegation or bring the case to court, and the investigations were wrapped up as long ago as 2000. This proves that this allegation against Anwar was wild and baseless,” he said.
He said the article amounted to “character assassination and gutter journalism of the lowest and most disgraceful kind.”
Surendran blamed Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and Umno for the frequent “malicious personal attacks” from state-owned newspapers, saying it was impossible that these were done without Najib’s approval.
“In public interest, we call upon Najib to cease further false and libellous personal attacks upon opposition leaders and instead fairly debate us on national policies and issues,” he said.
Asked about criticisms that Anwar had not properly tackled the issue with his own evidence, Surendran disagreed.
“He has already explained, it can’t be clearer than that. He was exonerated and even got an SD [statutory declaration] from an officer who cleared him. [Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) director of investigation Abdul Razak Idris signed his SD claiming Anwar’s innocence in November 2009].
“Most importantly, there is no evidence whatsoever that he committed such a wrongdoing. They cooked this up. In the headline of the article it seems he has already committed the act but in the body, in the third paragraph, it says there was no evidence. If anything is true, charge Anwar right now,” he said.
‘Act of desperation’
Surendran said the latest allegation was the act of a “desperate government digging up closed investigation files decades ago to try to insinuate that Anwar or [PKR deputy president] Azmin [Ali], did something wrong.”
“Is this the best they can do?” he asked.
“This exposes their hypocrisy and dishonesty. Every time they attack Anwar, Pakatan Rakyat gets more votes. What people want is a rational discussion on economy and policy. Umno is unable to step up to that and resort to slander and lies and personal attacks. Umno is barking up the wrong tree,” he said.
On the recent claim by Anwar critic and Azmin’s sister Ummi Hafilda Ali that she had more damning evidence of both PKR leaders’ assets, Surendran said that she should be ignored.
“She has made all sort of ridiculous claims, absolutely nothing of substance. I don’t think Malaysians are interested at all with her rantings and ravings. I dont’ think her absurd statements carry any traction. We’re not paying attention,” he added.
Meanwhile, attempts to contact NST for an official response had been unsuccessful.
Recently, an old allegation against Anwar, during his tenure in the Cabinet, resurfaced.
It concerned a SD made by former Bank Negara assistant governor Abdul Murad Khalid in 1999 alleging that Anwar had about RM3 billion in 20 separate personal master accounts. The funds were allegedly managed by Anwar’s cronies.
However, Murad had reportedly retracted his SD in 1999, claiming he was coerced by the ACA to sign the form. And NST had, quoting sources, reported that there were no official records to suggest so.
Yesterday’s NST article further alleged that Anwar had instructed a bank CEO in 1999 to channel millions of ringgit into accounts of individuals and companies.
The CEO was supposedly a star witness in the anti-graft body’s probe on alleged abuse of power by Anwar, who was deputy prime minister and finance minister until Sept 2, 1998.
The NST report explained that the the absence of a paper trail proved to be a major obstacle in the probe, which was wrapped up in 2000.
Anwar had denied the claims, saying he had already been cleared of any wrongdoings.