A High Court in Kuala Lumpur was told that the controversial First Lady of Malaysia (FLOM) division was never formally documented as it was established merely on verbal instruction.
Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) officer Huzairi Zainal Abidin who testified in the RM6.5 million solar hybrid project graft trial, said the divisions of PMO were restructured after Najib Razak assume office as prime minister in 2009.
According to Huzairi, the FLOM division only came to be after Najib assumed the post of PM.
Huzairi said he was instructed by Ab Aziz Kassim, the then principal private secretary to Najib, to establish a new division to handle the premier’s affairs that involved Rosmah Mansor.
“As far as I could remember, there was also an instruction to name the new division as First Lady of Malaysia division. But I could not remember who had given such instruction,” testified Husairi.
“There was no document to show the setting up of the FLOM division because its establishment was based on verbal instruction and involved the internal usage of PMO only,” added Huzairi.
The manpower of FLOM then increased to five officers, including Najib’s ex-special officer Rizal Mansor, from initially one officer, said the 42-year-old, adding that he was unsure what their duties were.
“Beside officers, supporting staffs were also hired to do the clerical works but I could not remember how many of them,” added Huzairi.
He said there was no specific budget allocated to carry out activities, but its staff was eligible to claim for transportation and overtime if they needed to attend and organise events as instructed.
Huzairi said Siti Azizah Sheikh Abod, who was then the prime minister’s special officer, was initially placed in the FLOM unit in charge of managing the affairs of Rosmah.
Huzairi told the court the officers in the FLOM unit were paid by the PMO and that the officers reported to Azizah.
“The staff and officers of this division were paid under PMO’s (budget),” he said.
FLOM was included in the directory of PMO website, added Huzairi.
He said FLOM was criticised following that as members of the public perceived a new office had been set up for Rosmah when she had no official position in the government.
As Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, the wife of the prime minister is an unofficial post that is only ceremonial.
“Moreover, the use of FLOM became a huge issue as there were parties who opined that FLOM should be used for the Raja Permaisuri Agong,” Huzairi said.
He said FLOM was later renamed “Special Division” to avoid any misunderstanding but the functions of the division remained the same.
According to Huzairi, the renaming was because public knowledge of the division’s existence prompted the Opposition at the time to make a fuss about it and question why such an outfit was established.
In January 2011, Seputeh MP Teresa Kok and then-Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong challenged Najib to explain the purpose of the FLOM division, whether public funds were used, and if Rosmah’s travels were paid for from these.
In his opening remark today, lead prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram said Rosmah was influential despite she had no official position in the government.
Sri Ram said Rosmah had placed herself in a position where she was able to influence decisions in the public sector herself in a position.
Elaborating further, Huzairi said the wives of former premiers and even Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali were only given one private secretary.
He said the role of the private secretary is to coordinate the programme of premiers that needed to be attended by their wives.
“Before that, there was no FLOM in the PMO,” added Huzairi.
When grilled by defence counsel Jagjit Singh and Azrul Zulkifli Storke, Huzairi admitted the PMO renamed FLOM to avoid negative political perception following criticism by the opposition parties.
In 2011, the then de facto law minister Nazri Abdul Aziz said FLOM was not an official title, but it was a legitimate one.
Answering Azrul, who asked him about the role of her former aide Rizal Mansor within the so-called FLOM division, Huzairi explained that Rizal was part of the division and reported directly to its head Siti Azizah.
Rizal is also on trial with Rosmah in this case.
Related report: Feb 5, DPP: Overbearing Rosmah Wielded Considerable Influence