Did Rosmah have her own department in the prime minister’s office and what did it do?

Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court September 9, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor arrives at the Kuala Lumpur High Court September 9, 2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — A former aide of Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor’s told the High Court on Wednesday that he headed a special division under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) purportedly dubbed “First Lady of Malaysia” or FLOM for short.

Testifying against the wife of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at her bribe-for-contract trial, Datuk Rizal Mansor (no relation to Rosmah) who was the 21st prosecution witness claimed he was the special officer who led the team tasked to manage and protect Rosmah’s public image.

Rizal faced a gruelling cross-examination by the trial’s defence team whose scrutiny centred on his designation. Her lawyers had repeatedly posited to previous witnesses that Rizal was never her special officer.

The testimony has since raised many questions about the special department he claimed to have headed. Rizal also alleged that FLOM employed the services of “cybertroopers.”

These cybertroopers were operating on funds — RM100,000 in cash monthly — allegedly provided by Rosmah herself.

The team, he claimed, was “responsible for countering and providing explanation to every slander, assertion and accusation towards Datin Seri Rosmah, to the public.”

But was FLOM reaL? Whether or not there really was such a department under the PMO seems to be unclear.

Since then, there have been two prime ministers: Tun Mahathir Mohamad from March 2018 to May 2020 and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin from May 2020 till now.

However, two well-placed sources within PMO say FLOM existed although they are not sure about its structure.

Talk among civil servants about FLOM began from the time Datuk Seri Najib Razak became prime minister in 2009.

Also, Rizal had testified that his salary was borne by the government, based on a two-year contract which was renewed until 2018.

While his designation often changed throughout his tenure, his responsibilities remained the same: to aid Rosmah in dealing with the media, arranging her daily and weekly schedule, etc.

Rizal had on several occasions issued public statements defending the former prime minister’s wife against allegations of corruption, which intensified after the 1MDB scandal garnered international attention.

So the fact that Rizal did work on behalf of Rosmah and received a salary from the government seems to point to the existence of FLOM.

A department like FLOM dedicated to managing the public image of the prime minister’s wife did not exist before 2009 and does not exist after 2018.

So, is such a department even legal?

PMO sources told Malay Mail the prime minister has the discretionary power to establish new departments under PMO.

“However, it still has to receive Cabinet approval since it involves funding,” said the source.

“So, the question is if FLOM existed, did it have the approval of the Cabinet?”

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