KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan said he saw 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) as a political fund Barisan Nasional formed when it was still ruling, as its ministers had been encouraged to use the state investment firm’s financial resources for projects in their constituencies.
Sidek was Malaysia’s 12th chief secretary to the government from September 2006 until his retirement in June 2012, and his duties in that position included serving as secretary to the Cabinet’s weekly meetings.
Testifying as the 19th prosecution witness in former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s trial over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of 1MDB funds, Sidek was asked to clarify his court testimony yesterday that he viewed 1MDB as being BN’s political fund.
Sidek today agreed with Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s suggestion that his view of 1MDB being BN’s political fund was only his understanding, also agreeing that he did not have any firm evidence to support this.
When lead prosecutor Datuk Seri Gopal Sri Ram asked Sidek how he came to the view, however, the latter cited past discussions in Cabinet meetings.
“An example was, in the Cabinet discussion, one of the Cabinet discussions, there was an issue of dana 1MDB (1MDB funds) and ministers were encouraged to suggest proposals for projects and so on, that could be used through the fund,” Sidek told the High Court today.
Sidek further said the 1MDB funds were to finance projects “for the ministers in their constituencies”.
Sri Ram: So how did that lead you to believe it was for Barisan Nasional?
Sidek: Well, the ministers were Barisan Nasional members.
Sidek also confirmed that Najib was wearing many hats in Cabinet meetings as he was both the prime minister and also the finance minister, confirming that Cabinet meetings are to discuss matters relating to government policies.
But when Sri Ram suggested that the Cabinet’s purpose is not to discuss party politics, Sidek explained his view that government policies would come from policies decided by the ruling parties.
“I was a civil servant through and through, government policy is a policy of the party in power, whether it is Barisan Nasional or whatever name it is, the policy of the government is therefore derived from the party or parties or coalition of parties in government, so you can't really differentiate between the two of it,” said Sidek, who had been in civil service for 38 years.
Sri Ram then suggested that this would not permit a member of Cabinet to participate when he a personal interest in a matter, to which Sidek agreed by saying this was according to the code of ethics for members of the administration.
Did Najib tell Cabinet about Jho Low?
Yesterday, Sidek had verified the minutes of a September 8, 2010 Cabinet meeting chaired by Najib as the prime minister and finance minister, with Najib informing about purported donations from Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Sultan Abdul Aziz Al-Saud to Yayasan 1Malaysia Development Berhad.
In this meeting minutes, Najib was recorded as having claimed that the Saudi crown prince through his charity foundation agreed to contribute to Yayasan 1MDB and that the prince had requested for this donation to not be announced, with the first donation said to have been received and the prince purportedly promising to continue donating.
Najib had also in that 2010 Cabinet meeting stated that the donation from the prince would enable more corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes and projects to be carried out through Yayasan 1MDB and to help more of the needy, with Najib also recorded as saying that Cabinet members could also give proposals for CSR projects to be carried out in October 2010.
The Cabinet was recorded as agreeing to these views by Najib and also agreeing to not announce the Saudi Arabia government’s donation.
Shafee today suggested that Najib had declared in Cabinet about various donations from Saudi entities whenever he could make such declarations, to which Sidek agreed.
Shafee: So, Datuk Seri Najib, whenever he was approached by any entity especially in this case, the Arab entity, about a donation that was coming, he readily informed the Cabinet, isn’t that correct? As reflected in these minutes.
Sidek: As reflected in these minutes.
Sri Ram later asked Sidek about this same 2010 Cabinet meeting, saying: “To the best of your knowledge and recollection, did the accused Datuk Seri Najib at the Cabinet meeting disclose his relationship with a person called Jho Low?”
“I cannot recall that,” Sidek replied.
Najib’s 1MDB trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes this afternoon.