A 'Lead by Example' award from the Antiquities Coalition for Permata has been pulled after questions were raised over its funding. The organisation is linked to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's wife, Rosmah Mansor, known for her jet-setting lifestyle following revelations around the 1Malaysia Development Berhad state fund.
A report by website Malaysiakini said the award was withdrawn after the Antiquities Coalition decided that questions over the funding for the Permata programme led by Rosmah were distracting focus from its project on mobilising and uniting people in the fight against violent extremism.
Professor Tudor Parfitt, the chair of the international academic advisory panel for the event, said that following inaccurate leaks of the committee's recommendations on the recipients of the award, the organisation has been questioned over the sources of funding for Permata by the media.
In a statement released by the Antiquities Coalition, Parfitt said that as academics, the organisation had no immediate means of verifying funding for Permata, and neither was it aware of any specific wrongdoing.
"However, we do not wish this important event to be dominated by anything other than the issue of how to mobilise and unite people in the fight against violent extremism," he said.
"The committee therefore decided it requires more time to review the comments that have been received, and has removed Permata from the list of Thursday's honourees," Parfitt said.
Antiquities Coalition spokesperson Andy Beck clarified in an email: "Contrary to erroneous reports, the event is not a Unesco event, nor is Unesco giving the award."
Rosmah is the patron of Permata, which was set up in 2007. It started several initiatives that cover Early Childhood Education and Care, Gifted and Talented, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Youth At-Risk and Children's Health and Medical Care, among others.
Over the weekend, local reports quoted the state news agency Bernama as saying that Rosmah will be receiving the award together with six other recipients involved in education, human rights, empowerment of women and advocates of global citizenship when receiving the award.
The report said the other recipients were: Sara Bloomfield, the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial, Esther Coopersmith, Unesco Goodwill Ambassador, Meera Gandhi, the founder and CEO of the Giving Back Foundation, Francine Lefrak from the Harvard Women's Leadership Board, Deborah Lehr, the chair of the Antiquities Coalition and Catherine Reynolds, the Founder and CEO of the Catherine Reynolds Foundation.
The award will be presented at the 'A Tribute to Heroes in the Global Campaign Against Violent Extremism' event on 22 September at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York. Malaysiakini said that Bernama had erroneously reported that the award was from Unesco.
Bernama quoted a statement from Malaysia's Education Ministry Secretary-General Alias Ahmad. saying that the award was in recognition of Rosmah's efforts in developing the potential of children through the early childhood education programme Permata.
Bernama quotes Ahmad, who is also the Malaysian National Commission for Unesco vice-president, as saying: "This recognition is also an honour for Malaysia for providing quality education for the holistic development of children."
Rosmah made headlines for 1MDB
The prime minister's wife made global headlines earlier this year over the 1MDB scandal. Both she and Najib were accused of going on a $15m (£10.5m, €13.3m) spending spree, from money allegedly diverted from the fund, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper claims that $15m was spent on clothes, jewellery and a car in the US, Malaysia, Italy and elsewhere. 1MDB has maintained that it did not channel any money to Najib's personal account.
A news website, the Sarawak Report, separately claimed that the couple had spent hundreds of thousands on anti-ageing products. Najib has been cleared of any wrongdoing by local authorities in Malaysia.