Controversial internet journalist Raja Petra voluntarily completed a sworn statement ("statutory declaration") at a Malaysian court on June 18, in which he affirmed that he was "reliably informed" Deputy Prime Minister Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor, together with her aide Norhayati and acting Colonel Aziz Buyong (Norhayati's husband), were present at the scene of the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibbu in October 2006.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUALA LUMPUR 000529
FOR EAP/MTS AND INR
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/23/2028
TAGS: PGOV, PINR, KJUS, KDEM, MY
SUBJECT: BLOGGER ALLEGES DPM'S WIFE AT MURDER SCENE
REF: KUALA LUMPUR 335 - SEDITION CHARGES AGAINST BLOGGER
Classified By: Political Section Chief Mark D. Clark, reason 1.4 (b and d).
1. (C) Controversial internet journalist Raja Petra executed a sworn statement on June 18 to the effect that Deputy Prime Minister Najib's wife, Rosmah Mansor, was at the scene of the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibbu in October 2006, and that PM Abdullah and a Royal received information to that effect.
While the mainstream press has shied away from printing Rosmah's name, Kuala Lumpur is abuzz with this latest explosive allegation. PM Abdullah has thus far remained silent, while the national police chief and Attorney General said they would investigate.
Raja Petra, who faces sedition charges for earlier claims, informed us that the Attorney General's Office filed a police report on the matter, and he expected to be called in for questioning soon.
While the latest allegations of Rosmah's presence at the murder seem implausible, they nevertheless will have resonance with a Malaysian public that does not have confidence in the integrity of the Altantuya murder investigation. Continued public attention to such reports also could damage Najib's front-runner status as PM Abdullah's successor. End Summary.
Rosmah at Murder Scene, PM Has Report
2. (U) Controversial internet journalist Raja Petra voluntarily completed a sworn statement ("statutory declaration") at a Malaysian court on June 18, in which he affirmed that he was "reliably informed" Deputy Prime Minister Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor, together with her aide Norhayati and acting Colonel Aziz Buyong (Norhayati's husband), were present at the scene of the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibbu in October 2006.
Raja Petra also stated that military intelligence provided a report with this information to Prime Minister Abdullah, which was subsequently given to Abdullah's son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin "for safe-keeping," and that one of Malaysia's traditional rulers also was briefed on the matter. Raja Petra did not reveal the source of this information.
Raja Petra remains indicted for sedition for his earlier internet reports that implied DPM Najib and wife Rosmah were connected to the on-going Altantuya murder case (ref A).
3. (SBU) Internet reports of Raja Petra's declaration emerged on June 20, and the full text became available on his Malaysia Today website. Some of Malaysia's mainstream media briefly reported Raja Petra's new allegations, but carefully avoided identifying Rosmah Mansor as the "prominent VIP" named in his statement.
An aide to Najib reportedly described the statement as "mind-boggling." Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan told reporters the police would look into the "highly inflammatory" allegations, and could take action against Raja Petra if they were found to be untrue, while Attorney General Abdul Gani Patil stated his office would look "seriously" into the matter.
Heavy Buzz in Parliament
4. (C) As members of Parliament gathered June 23 for the opening of the second parliamentary session, Raja Petra's story competed with speculation of a no-confidence vote against PM Abdullah for the attention of lawmakers.
Opposition MPs, parliamentary watchers, and journalists who spoke with us at Parliament all remarked that Raja Petra had put himself at great risk, and therefore they speculated that he must have some evidence in hand. If this is a bluff, "it will cost him and his family," one MP remarked.
Prominent opposition MP Lim Kit Siang said he was troubled that the PM had kept quiet about the allegations. Later on June 23, Kit Siang introduced an emergency parliamentary motion to discuss Raja Petra's statement. The Parliament Speaker is required to accept or reject on an emergency motion within 24 hours.
Raja Petra Ready for Police
5. (C) We spoke briefly with Raja Petra and his wife Marina on June 23. They related that the AGO had filed a police report regarding the affidavit. A seemingly confident Raja Petra said, "I am ready and eagerly waiting for the police to question me," and took exception to the threatening tone of IGP Musa's remarks. He also implied he had further evidence to implicate DPM Najib and his wife, and asked rhetorically what action the police would take "if the allegations are true."
6. (C) Putting aside the question of Najib's links to the case, the allegation that Najib's wife would be present at the Altantuya murder scene strikes us as very implausible, though fully in keeping with Raja Petra's sometimes wild and highly emotional reporting.
The Malaysian public and political elite, however, have no confidence in the integrity of the government's investigation into the 2006 murder of Altantuya. The government's inept and gruelingly slow prosecution of the case against DPM Najib's former advisor Razak Baginda and two soldiers from Najib's security detail, and the authorities' decision early on to limit the scope of the investigation to exclude any further links with DPM Najib, have sent clear signals of political interference.
Against this backdrop, most Malaysians will believe there is at least some truth in Raja Petra's affidavit. Amidst the leadership struggle within the ruling UMNO party, emerging fractures in the National Front coalition, and maneuvering for a no-confidence vote against PM Abdullah, the latest allegations add to the nation's sense of political turmoil.
Continued public focus on such allegations also could harm Najib's front-runner status as PM Abdullah's successor.