Najib tells court why he appointed himself PM and finance minister

Today is the first time Tommy Thomas questions Najib Razak in court.

KUALA LUMPUR: Najib Razak appointed himself finance minister because he had knowledge and experience in business and finance, the ex-prime minister’s SRC corruption trial heard today.

He said he was able to develop the country for nine years until the Barisan Nasional (BN) was voted out of power last year due to his finance and business knowledge and experience.

“I am not bragging but I have delivered,” he said when cross examined by Attorney-General Tommy Thomas on day 62 of the trial.

Najib’s reply came when Thomas asked why he had appointed himself finance minister, which was a heavy portfolio, when he was also the prime minister.

The Pekan MP, who was prime minister from April 2009 until last year, said he was not the first to hold both positions simultaneously.

He said his predecessors Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had also held both positions.

Najib said in his case he had also appointed two second finance ministers to assist him in the work.

Najib was appointed finance minister by Abdullah in 2008. He became prime minister after Abdullah resigned but continued to hold the finance portfolio until the 2018 general election.

The former BN chairman and Umno president said the economy grew by 5.7% in 2017, and was ahead of the four Asian tigers that year.

“We had the longest bull run and the Bursa Malaysia touched 1,900 points. The ringgit was stable,” he said, adding that the people benefited from his welfare programmes.

Najib said he qualified as an industrial economist although he was never a businessman.

“However, I have experience in business and finance from the time I served as Pahang menteri besar in 1982,” he said.

Today’s proceeding is seen as historic as this was the first time the attorney-general, who is also the public prosecutor, was questioning Najib, who once held the most powerful position in the country.

Najib, who is in the witness box after being called to answer seven criminal charges in relation to moving RM42 million of SRC International funds into his bank accounts, said the position of prime minister carried enormous power and influence.

“I can also appoint people to various bodies like Petronas and Khazanah Nasional but my power is not absolute. It must be used prudently,” he added.

Najib, who entered politics in 1976 following the death of his father Abdul Razak Hussein, said prime ministers over the last 20 years had made key appointments in the economic and financial sectors compared with the time of first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1957.

“This is a natural development,” he said.

Najib said a prime minister did not have a free hand in the appointment of his ministers as Malaysia practised party and coalition politics.

“I have to appoint party heads to be senior ministers and they must be MPs or senators to be Cabinet members,” he said.

Najib said he sacked his then deputy Muhyiddin Yassin and the rural development minister Shafie Apdal in July 2015 after both went public over the 1MDB issue.

“I allowed them to speak in Cabinet meetings. My take is that they spoke outside, and were removed,” he said.

Najib is accused of abusing his power as prime minister by giving government guarantees on SRC International’s RM4 billion loan from Retirement Fund Inc.

He is also charged with three counts of money laundering and three counts of criminal breach of trust in the transfer of RM42 million to his accounts from the former 1MDB unit.

Hearing before judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali continues.