KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 26): Putrajaya's propaganda unit, the Special Affairs Department (Jasa), has begun distributing a book on 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to university students to counter allegations against the Finance Ministry-owned firm.
Jasa representative Datuk Lokman Adam said the booklets were necessary for students to get a "clear picture" on the controversial investor, and were being handed out as a follow up to the department's "Jelajah Kampus", a roadshow of talks at different campuses.
The 79-page booklet, titled 1MDB: Siapa Kata Tidak Dijawab? (1MDB: Who Says There Are No Answers?) will be distributed to all public higher education institutions as well as private universities.
"We have received many grouses from university students themselves asking why the government did not explain.
"We are not able to meet all the graduates and we did explain through the 'Jelajah Kampus' programme, and now we have decided to distribute the books," he told The Malaysian Insider.
Lokman said Jasa had visited 20 universities last November and December to hold talks about 1MDB, the brainchild of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The department explained the firm's RM42 billion debt, which 1MDB is now in the process of paying off through a rationalisation exercise that includes selling land and other assets.
"All universities are involved, we will not make an exception on this and we will focus efforts at private universities as we realise it is easier for them to get outside information," he said.
Universiti Malaya (UM) students first told The Malaysian Insider about the book on Sunday, and said they were free through the Student Affairs Office.
UM Muslim Undergraduates Association (PMIUM) representative Suhail Wan Azahar said the preface in the book stated that answers on 1MDB were collected from statements by Najib who is also finance minister, Second Finance Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah and 1MDB president and group executive director, Arul Kanda Kandasamy.
The book also addresses several accusations by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad against 1MDB.
Among others, it denies that the firm had "lost" money and accuses Dr Mahathir of "twisting" statements.
"Dr Mahathir makes allegations based on assumptions without referring to documents and actual financial statements," the book says, along with infographics summarising its finances.
It says Putrajaya has never shied away from giving answers on 1MDB, adding that the firm itself issued 90 statements to answer various allegations from January to November last year.
Accurate explanation, says UM
Meanwhile, Universiti Malaya (UM) vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Amin Jalaludin confirmed that the books were given out at the UM campus by the management since last Sunday.
He said the book was being distributed as it was published by a government agency and the university felt it was a good reference for students.
"Lately, there have been many reports and facts released by various parties on 1MDB.
"Giving out the books is suitable for students to gain an accurate explanation from official government sources," he said in an emailed response to The Malaysian Insider.
Amin dismissed criticism by student group Universiti Malaya Association of New Youth (Umany), that UM was like a "puppet" for helping Putrajaya cover up the alleged financial scandals involving 1MDB and the government.
He said Umany was not recognised by the university management as a legitimate group and did not represent the majority of UM students.
In a statement recently, Umany said the involvement of the campus management in distributing the propaganda books tarnished UM's reputation, especially since funds used for it could have been chanelled to help the university cover costs following budget cuts by Putrajaya on 19 out of Malaysia's 20 public universities.
1MDB's media team, in response to queries by The Malaysian Insider about the book, said the information in it were answers to questions from the opposition as well as the public about the firm.
"This book, which is written in a way that is easy to understand along with infographics, is aimed at giving answers to issues on 1MDB from the company's perspective so as to clear doubts among the people," the statement said.
The book also contains a schedule of past events by Jasa to explain 1MDB to Malaysian students in the United Kingdom as well as in Indonesia, showing how the department has been actively addressing concerns about the firm.