BUTTERWORTH: Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said today money from 1MDB given to the three Chinese journalists groups in Penang influenced their reporting when he was Penang chief minister.
He said it came as no surprise as the groups, who are exclusively members from the Chinese-language media, had “always attacked” him.
He said it also goes to prove the reason for the feud between him and a few Chinese press reporters in Penang, who were dead set against him.
He said at one point, he thought he would lose in the general election due to the unfavourable coverage given to him by the Chinese dailies.
“Reporters must be neutral in their coverage.
“If you have received money (from 1MDB), how can you stay neutral in your reporting?
“It was a difficult period for me. I thought I would lose, no thanks to the Chinese papers.
“But I was patient and, thankfully, people believed me and not these reporters and certain newspapers. Today, their coverage is better and fairer.
“We need to clean up the newspaper industry. They must remain free because they are the fourth estate,” he said at a press conference at his service centre here today.
Lim was commenting on reports that three journalists’ groups in Penang had received a total of RM150,000 from a 1MDB-related outfit before the May 2013 general election.
MCA-owned cooperative, Kojadi, was also alleged to have received RM15 million from Yayasan 1MDB to provide micro-credit facilities for members.
One of the journalists’ groups told FMT that it was planning to return the RM50,000 it received from the 1Malaysia Penang Welfare Club.
This was also in light of the MACC announcement of the civil forfeiture list of 41 names last week and that there will be more civil forfeitures against those who had received 1MDB money.
Lim today urged all those who have received money from 1MDB to return them to a recovery account set up by the ministry.
He said this is to avoid possible civil forfeiture action being against them by graft-busters.
“Feel free to return the 1MDB monies quickly. Better yet, contact the finance ministry, tell them you want to return (1MDB) monies to the recovery account.
“If you return the money, it would show your sincerity,” he said, stating that those stubborn in refusing to return the money were being insincere.
“The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can initiate a civil suit and your accounts would be frozen. You will have to go to court.”
On a different note, Lim panned Gerakan president Dominic Lau for wanting the government to demand that Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal to return the money they received from 1MDB as well.
Lim said Lau’s remarks shows the opposition has “lost their minds” as he had explained that the former BN members had never received money directly into their personal accounts.
“Opposition parties have lost their mind. These leaders didn’t receive money (directly), yet they want them to return it to the government.
“But those who received money don’t have to return it? Next thing you know, they will want Guan Eng to return the money,” he said.
Lim also made reference to MCA’s Koperasi Jayadiri Malaysia Berhad (Kojadi), a cooperative known for giving student loans to the deserving, who had apparently refused to return RM15 million allegedly given by Yayasan 1MDB.
Lim said Kojadi is being prevented from returning the money by MCA president Wee Ka Siong.
“Why is the MCA president blocking Kojadi from returning the money? Is it because he has received some money, too?”
Kojadi received a “financial grant” of RM15 million from Yayasan 1MDB in 2012 to implement a socio-economic micro-credit scheme called Kojadi Micro Credit Scheme for Youths.
Kojadi’s board of directors, in a news report yesterday, had said the RM15 million grant had “nothing to do” with former prime minister Najib Razak’s accounts.