KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian anti-graft authorities have frozen the bank accounts of an opposition party led by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin amid an investigation that the pro-Malay group said was an attempt to destroy its credibility.
The Bersatu party will cooperate in the investigation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in order to quickly put an end to the “slander” thrown its way, party secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin said in a statement late Wednesday.
Shortly after taking office, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said “tens of billions of ringgit” in Covid-19 relief during Muhyiddin Yassin’s time as premier was allocated without due procedure.
Muhyiddin, who leads the party and was prime minister from March 2020 to August 2021, has denied any wrongdoing. He and Anwar fought a tight election race in November that resulted in a hung parliament.
The investigation is a blow for Bersatu and the wider Perikatan Nasional coalition it leads as it prepares to take on Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan alliance in six state elections due this year. The conservative Perikatan Nasional aims to build on the surprise gains it made in the general election, where it came in second to Pakatan Harapan.
The investigation is being carried out under the MACC Act and the Anti-money Laundering, Anti-terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act, local media reported, citing MACC chief Azam Baki. The accounts were frozen two weeks ago and the investigation is still at an early stage, he added.
Azam said the investigation was unrelated to the Covid-19 funds and asked that his officers be given space to carry out their work, the Star newspaper reported.
While the local polls would have no direct bearing on the balance of power in parliament, they will be a measure of the new government’s popularity among the public. Anwar is considering working with rival-turned-ally Barisan Nasional to win the elections and strengthen his leadership in a country that has seen four prime ministers in four years.
“Bersatu expresses its regret on the move by the PH-BN government to use government agencies as a tool to achieve its political goal of destroying Bersatu and Perikatan Nasional’s credibility,” Hamzah said.
“We are confident that the people are always aware of PH-BN’s disgusting strategy to divert their attention away from the government’s weaknesses, failures and nepotism.”