Ruckus over $860 million reply

KUALA LUMPUR: A ruckus was sparked in the House when Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi stood up to answer questions on the RM2.6 billion (S$860 million) in Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's personal bank accounts.

The Prime Minister, according to Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman, has been advised by the Attorney-General (A-G) not to personally answer in the Dewan Rakyat.

"It is a fact that there is an ongoing investigation and the Govern-ment has been advised by the A-G that matters pertaining to it should not be discussed as it would be sub judice," she said at a press conference in the Parliament lobby.

She said this was the reason why the Deputy Prime Minister gave an explanation to the lawmakers.

"The Government decided that the best thing to do was to issue a ministerial statement to inform the House of the developments."

Earlier, Gobind Singh Deo (DAP-Puchong) stood up to question why Dr Ahmad Zahid was answering the question and not Najib.

"How come he (Najib) is not here to explain the question specifically when it relates to him personally. I think he should be here.

"Standing Order 25 states that a member may make a personal explanation on Standing Order 14.

"Since the issue relates to the Prime Minister directly, he should be the one to answer," said Gobind.

Several Opposition MPs stood up to seek clarification from Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia who had ruled that there would no debate or questions on the matter after Zahid's explanation.

Datuk Seri Azeez Abdul Rahim (BN-Baling) accused the Opposition of politicising the issue.

Despite the objections, Pandikar said the Prime Minister had the right to assign someone to respond on his behalf.

"Other ministers can also answer (for the PM) because that is the House rule.

"After the Prime Minister, the next in line is the Deputy Prime Minister. So I allow it," he said.

In his five-minute explanation, Dr Ahmad Zahid reiterated that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Comm-ission's (MACC) findings that the RM2.6bil deposited into Najib's accounts was not from 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).

"Any statement issued by any quarters on the matter raised could be assumed to be sub judice and could jeopardise any of the investigations and give rise to public prejudice against the parties in the investigations," he said.

He also said that MACC had identified the political donor and Bank Negara had been informed of the opening of the bank account that stored the funds.

"There is no law against political donations, " he said.

He added that a proposal by Najib to regulate political funding in 2009 was rejected by the Opposition.