Malaysia’s king has refused to weigh in on a public petition led by ex-premier Mahathir Mohamad calling for the removal of scandal-tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak, according to a statement issued by Najib on Wednesday.
Mahathir met King Abdul Halim for more than an hour last week to hand him a “People’s Declaration” endorsed by more than one million Malaysians and that calls on Najib to quit over his alleged involvement in the looting of billions of dollars in state funds, said Mahathir’s son Mukhriz.
Najib said Wednesday that the king had informed Mahathir that he did not want to get involved in activities of Mahathir’s new opposition party, the United Malaysian Indigenous Party (PPBM). The declaration was unconstitutional, according to the statement from Najib.
“I have already been informed that His Majesty the King, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, had granted an audience to PPBM Chairman Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at Anak Bukit Palace in Alor Setar last week,” said Najib’s statement, written in Malay.
“At that meeting, his majesty took note of issues raised by Tun Dr. Mahathir. However, his Majesty the King also explained to Dr. Mahathir that his majesty cannot get involved in efforts by PPBM,” the statement went on to say.
“That is because the declaration made by PPBM is not in line with the constitution. Any actions should be carried out according to standard practices, that is, through parliament and the electoral system for people to make their decision.”
Najib did not say how he had obtained the information about the meeting between King Adbul Halim and Mahathir, as well as the monarch’s stance.
PPBM is the new party launched by Mahathir and other senior politicians who have defected from Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party.
It is highly unusual for political figures to speak for Malaysia's monarch, a widely respected figure regarded as the supreme upholder of the Malay tradition and the symbolic head of Islam.
The palace has released no information about the Sept. 15 meeting between the king and Mahathir, and there was no immediate response from the royal household to Najib's statement.
‘Ball is no longer in our court’: Mukhriz
Najib has flatly rejected the corruption charges, linked to the debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and deposits into his private accounts worth close to U.S. $700 million.
Mukhriz Mahathir, who is vice-president of PPBM, had expressed relief that his father was granted an audience by King Abdul Halim over the petition.
“Now that we have submitted the declaration, at least we can now tell the people that we have done our part,” said Mukhriz, who was the chief minister of Kedah state before Najib’s loyalists forced him out of power earlier this year.
“...[T]he ball is no longer in our court. The appeal made by 1.4 million Malaysian signatories [has] now been passed to the king,” Mukhriz said of the meeting between Mahathir and King Abdul Halim, 89, the long-serving sultan of Kedah.
Malaysia’s nine sultans take turns to become the country’s constitutional monarch under a unique rotational system introduced toward the end of British colonial rule in the 1950s.
Their roles are largely ceremonial, and the power to govern Malaysia resides with parliament and the prime minister.
Last year, in rare comments, the rulers had called for a swift, transparent investigation into the troubled state-fund 1MDB, saying the government’s failure to give convincing answers on the scandal may have resulted in a “crisis of confidence.”