September 20, 2016: The award originally intended to be conferred on Permata and the prime minister’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor in New York this Thursday is indeed from Unesco.
However, neither Permata, Rosmah nor the government had applied for the special tribute award.
Instead, it was the Director-General of Unesco, Irina Bokova, who had sent letters to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Rosmah and Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman on September 8 informing them that Rosmah was to be given the award at the event to be co-hosted by Unesco.
“This is in recognition of efforts undertaken by the government to counter extremism through the educational system, and specifically the approach taken by Permata, founded in 2007 by Datin Seri Rosmah,” said the prime minister’s press secretary Datuk Seri Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad in a statement today.
Rosmah is the patron of Permata programme for early childhood education in Malaysia.
Subsequently, two days ago, Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations received an email from Professor Tudor Parfitt, chairman of the Academic Advisory Board of the Organising Committee of the Tribute to Contributors to the Global Campaign against Violent Extremism, stating that the award would be deferred to 2017 because of interventions from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times regarding the funding of Permata.
“We can confirm that Permata is wholly funded by the government of Malaysia under an allocation transparently included in our annual budget and approved by Parliament.
“All expenditures are in accordance with government financial procedures. This is not only a matter of public record but could have been immediately explained had we or Permata been asked before the deferment,” said the statement.
“To avoid any further distraction from this important work for the children of Malaysia, Permata and Datin Seri Rosmah have declined the proposed deferred award.
“We deplore attempts to politicise the work of an exemplary organisation whose only aim is to improve the lives of children. And we regret that those who chose to bestow the award have given in to the smears and insinuations of some who are only focussed on their campaign against Malaysia, the government and the prime minister.”
On Saturday, Bernama reported that Rosmah had been selected to be the recipient of Unesco’s Lead by Example award in conjunction with the 71st United Nations General Assembly, according to a statement by the Education Ministry’s Secretary-General Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad, who is also Malaysian National Commission for Unesco vice president.
However, yesterday the Malaysiakini news portal reported that Rosmah had been removed as recipient and that the event on Thursday is not by Unesco. The portal also mentioned it was Bernama that had reported the award was from Unesco.