The PERMATA Programmes was started back in 2007 under the guidance of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's wife, YABhg. Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor who is also its patron. The organisation aims to provide a unified platform for children and teenagers from all walks of life to develop their true potential and skills.
"This recognition is also an honour for Malaysia for providing quality education for the holistic development of children," Education Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Alias Ahmad who is also the Malaysian National Commission for UNESCO's vice president was quoted as saying by Bernama on 17 September.
The article by Bernama said that the award was an initiative by UNESCO and six other women who are involved in an array of fields including human rights, education, empowerment of women and global citizenship.
The report also named the six women involved as; Sara Bloomfield, the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Esther Coopersmith, Meera Gandhi, (Founder and CEO of The Giving Back Foundation); Francine Lefrak (Harvard Women's Leadership Board); Deborah Lehr (Antiquities Coalition chairman) and Catherine Reynolds (Founder and CEO of Catherine Reynolds Foundation).
The news of Rosmah receiving the award was widely covered by most local and international media following the report by Bernama.
A day later, Tom Wright, a reporter with the The Wall Street Journal questioned the accuracy of the report on Twitter.
Prior to that, UNESCO had issued an official press statement regarding the 71st UN general assembly which includes the information about Rosmah receiving the award
The press release by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on 16 September titled, 'UNESCO contributing to 71st UN General Assembly, marked by refugee crisis and rising violent extremism' highlighted how UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova will be participating in several events during the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly held from 16th till 23rd September.
One of the high-level events that she'll be attending was reportedly 'A Tribute to heroes in the global campaign against violent extremism'. It was mentioned that the celebration will be led by nine individuals including the UNESCO Director-General, with Sarah Bloomfield, Director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Tina Brown, Women in the World, Ambassador Esther Coopersmith, Meera Gandhi, Founder and CEO, The Giving Back Foundation, Arianna Huffington, Francine Lefrak, Harvard Women’s Leadership Board, Deborah Lehr, Chair of the Antiquities Coalition and Catherine Reynolds, Founder and CEO of Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.
Among the awards that fall under the Tribute to Heroes ceremony is the 'The Lead by Example' award which will be presented to Senegalese President Macky Sall and PM Najib's wife Rosmah Mansor on 22 September at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New York.
Here's a screenshot of the excerpt from the press release:
However, two days after the press release was published, the Antiquities Coalition, which was supposed to present the 'Lead by Example' award to Rosmah informed that she has been removed from the list of honourees
In a report by Malaysiakini on the matter, it was highlighted that Bernama has wrongfully mentioned that the award is being conferred by UNESCO when it is in fact supposed to be presented by the Antiquities Coalition.
The Antiquities Coalition is an NGO that aims to stop cultural racketeering, which is basically the looting and illegal trade of antiquities by organized criminals and terrorist organisations.
According to Malaysiakini, the Antiquities Coalition had apparently sent out a press release to the media making clarifications about the questions surrounding the award.
"Contrary to erroneous reports, the event is not a UNESCO event, nor is UNESCO giving the award," said Andy Beck, a spokesperson for the Antiquities Coalition.
Professor Tudor Parfitt, the chair of the international academic advisory panel for the event, pinned the reason for the removal on the questions raised about PERMATA's funding sources
"The committee recommended that Permata programmes receive recognition as they were seen to represent a model for potential imitation in other countries with diverse populations.
"The programme, which was founded in 2007 under the auspices of Rosmah Mansor, has already received recognition for its efforts to help deprived young people find employment and develop their potential," said Parfitt who is also a British scholar and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
In the statement shared by Beck, Parfitt explained that due to the inaccurate leak of the committee's recommendation, people have been questioning the committee about the funding for the PERMATA organisation
As the committee cannot possibly verify the sources of funding within such a short period of time as academics, Parfitt said that they have jointly decided to remove Permata from the list of honourees. He added that this is despite the fact that they are currently unaware of any kind of wrongdoing related to PERMATA.
"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," said Parfitt.