KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 10 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak testified in court today that he removed Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal from his Cabinet in 2015 as they were openly critical of his administration’s handling of 1MDB.
Under cross-examination by Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas, Najib earlier agreed to the suggestion that it was his prerogative as the prime minister then to select and remove Cabinet members.
However, he acknowledged that there were political considerations for such decisions as Barisan Nasional had governed as a coalition, and positions were allocated to component parties’ leaders based on seniority and experience.
Later, Najib rejected Thomas’ suggestion that he would have removed the two as ministers if they had raised their concerns within Cabinet meetings.
Thomas: You were not shy to use that power as you fired your then deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.
Najib: I didn’t just use my power that way. I never fired a minister because they had disagreed. They have to agree in Cabinet.
Thomas: This is a fact. It is well known that you sacked them.
Najib: (They were fired) Because they made public statements (instead of in Cabinet meeting).
Najib, who chaired Cabinet meetings as prime minister and held the finance ministry portfolio then, agreed when asked if ministers could have freely questioned him about 1MDB in Cabinet meetings.
Earlier, Najib said there was a price to pay in exercising his prerogative and that he subsequently paid for it but did not elaborate.
According to the principle of collective responsibility, Cabinet members are obliged to publicly support the decisions they make collectively and any who could not abide by this should resign.
Najib also stressed that he was not the first prime minister to remove a minister.
In Najib’s other trial for allegedly tampering with the 2016 Auditor-General’s Report on 1MDB, former chief secretary to the government Tan Sri Ali Hamsa testified Muhyiddin’s removal from the Najib Cabinet in 2015 was likely because the then deputy prime minister had asked too many questions about 1MDB.
Najib is on trial over seven charges related to SRC International Sdn Bhd.
Three are for criminal breach of trust over a total RM42 million of SRC International funds while entrusted with its control as the prime minister and finance minister then, three more are for laundering the RM42 million, and the last is for abusing the same positions for self-gratification of the same sum.