Minister rejects Opposition claim, says Felda paper was never on Parliament site before embargo

Datuk Liew Vui Keong insisted only three sets of documents were on the official Parliament website during the time and the Felda White Paper was not listed. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Datuk Liew Vui Keong insisted only three sets of documents were on the official Parliament website during the time and the Felda White Paper was not listed. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 ― Datuk Liew Vui Keong refuted Opposition lawmakers' claim today that Parliament officials had inadvertently leaked the Felda White Paper online ahead of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s breach of the embargo.

In his winding-up speech at the end of the debate on the motion to suspend Najib for three months over the breach, Liew insisted only three sets of documents were on the official Parliament website during the time.

These were the 2017 annual reports and financial statements of Lembaga Kemajuan Wilayah Terengganu Tengah, Lembaga Kemajuan Tanah Persekutuan Felda and Maktab Kooperasi Malaysia.

“If the MPs entered (the Parliament website) that day, you can only see three things which are listed on the said website.

“The Felda White Paper was not listed. Was not listed at all,” the minister in the Prime Minister's Department said.

Contrary to what was argued by several Opposition MPs, Liew said there were also no links which enabled anyone to access the said White Paper on the Parliament website.

“On Tuesday, April 9, 3am. What happened then? Parliament officials distributed the embargoed hard copy. This copy, at 3am. So that when the MPs come to this hall on that day, before 10am or after that, you can see these embargoed copies on your tables,” Liew said.

He also praised the Parliament staff for their professionalism in ensuring the business in the Lower House went smoothly.

In his speech, Liew said that the soft copy of the report prepared by the Economic Affairs Ministry was only uploaded to the Parliament website at 11.51am, after the embargo was lifted.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob speaks during a press conference in Parliament April 11, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob speaks during a press conference in Parliament April 11, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Opposition lawmakers had earlier defended Najib over his violation of the embargo on the Felda White Paper yesterday, claiming the document was uploaded online without indication of the restriction.

They argued that officials had also made the document available on the official Parliament website prior to the embargo’s expiry and accessible to all, effectively negating the embargo.

Federal Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob pointed that Najib’s personal copy of the White Paper was still at his seat, meaning the Pekan MP could not have known it was embargoed until 11.30am yesterday.

A motion to suspend Najib for three months over the breached embargo was Parliament’s first order of business today, which Ismail urged to be withdrawn.

The White Paper had been barred from public release until 11.30am yesterday when Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali was due to table it in Parliament, but Najib began sharing excerpts on his Facebook page hours before then.

Among others, Najib had highlighted Felda’s agreement to buy a 37-per cent stake in Indonesian firm Eagle High Plantations Tbk (EHP).

He did so to defend himself over the police report Felda lodged on Tuesday accusing him of misleading the agency into paying over RM2 billion for the stake that had allegedly been worth just RM440 million at the time of the sale.

Najib was referred to Parliament’s Rights and Privileges Committee for allegedly breaking the embargo.