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    Jan 27, 2016

    Najib cleared of corruption but reputation remains damaged


    ALTHOUGH Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by the Attorney-General yesterday over the RM2.6 billion (S$870 million) found in his personal bank accounts, many believe the latest twist in the scandal cannot repair the leader's battered image.

    It remains a very tough job for Mr Najib to recover his reputation among Malaysians, even after the "no corruption" decision by Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali, according to the Malaysian Insider news website.

    "Every poll taken in the last few months shows that Najib's approval rating hovers between 21 per cent and 25 per cent, the lowest of any sitting PM of Malaysia," it pointed out.

    The website also believes the opposition does not mind having Mr Najib remain in office as he is seen to be easier to beat in the next election, with his political and moral baggage, than a replacement.

    The Malaysia Chronicle online news portal said the Attorney-General's findings shed light on why Mr Najib had made a dramatic bid last week to oust Mukhriz Mahathir, son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, as chief minister of the state of Kedah.

    "It (the move) is to tell Mahathir to cease fire. Stop the revolt against me or your son goes down too," said an analyst, who has been watching the infighting in the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

    Dr Mahathir has been pressing for Mr Najib to step down, accusing him of incompetence and corruption.

    Also, said the analyst, other Umno senior leaders who have questioned the "donation", including the party's deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin, are not likely to remain silent following yesterday's development.

    Foreign media, such as the BBC and the New York Times, asked why Mr Najib could be the recipient of a big "personal donation" and what the money had been used for - questions they said remain unanswered.

    Lim Kit Siang, senior leader of the opposition Democratic Action Party, also questioned why Mr Najib "accepted the astronomical donation for the 13th general election campaign in the first place, and why did he return RM2.03 billion in August 2013".

    "What happened to the balance of RM570 million from the original sum of RM2.6 billion?" Mr Lim asked in a statement.

    He also wondered why Mr Najib never admitted that he had returned a huge portion of the money to the Saudi royal family.