Kuala Lumpur, Nov 19 — Najib Razak today said he would revoke his application for a free plot of land in an exclusive part of Kuala Lumpur, following public outrage in the wake of revelations that the property would cost the government RM100 million including the construction of a new house.
Najib said the land and house are a gift to him as a former premier but had caused public unease due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“I decided to reject the reward although principally, the application is based on my being a former prime minister“.
“I am aware that at this moment, the people are faced with tough times and the priority of the country should be on the people,” he said, adding that he also did not want it to become a subject of controversy so close to the Melaka state election.
Najib suggested that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri consider amending the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act 1980 that covers the benefits of former prime ministers.
“If there is a need, the government should rescind this privilege for all former prime ministers, including the one after me“.
“I understand the difficult times faced by the people. The nation’s priority should be the people” said Najib
Saying he was eligible for the privilege accorded to him as a former prime minister, Najib added that he did not want his application to become an issue in the Melaka election, where he has been actively campaigning for Umno candidates.
Najib also denied that the house and land were worth RM100 million.
Najib claimed that he had been in the dark about the value of the property, a plot of land bigger than the size of two football fields in Bukit Petaling, a posh neighborhood in the heart of the capital.
“It’s not my job to evaluate land, that’s the job of the authorities,” he said.
His announcement comes 24 hours after Langkawi MP Dr. Mahathir Mohamad questioned the move to grant Najib privileges by invoking the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act, which allows several housing allowance options as a token of appreciation for former prime ministers.
Online portal MalaysiaNow, which first revealed details of the “gift”, stated that Najib had picked the most expensive option in the form of a plot of land measuring some 120,000 sq ft with a market value of close to RM70 million, on which a house would be built by the government at a total cost of RM100 million including the land value.
According to the report, Najib had made a site visit of the land before officially submitting his request to the Prime Minister’s Department in early 2021, even as he was busy accusing the administration of Muhyiddin Yassin of ignoring the welfare of Malaysians affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The request only received serious attention after the appointment of Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who replaced Muhyiddin following a coup engineered by Najib and Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi with the backing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
It is also learnt that the move by Ismail to approve the gift for Najib had drawn protests from several ministers, including Tengku Zafrul Aziz, Mohamed Azmin Ali, Khairy Jamaluddin, and Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, all of whom are key leaders in parties that make up the current government.