Ousted Critic of Malaysia PM Cites Plot ‘to Shut Me Up’

Fahirul N. Ramli and S. Adie Zul
2016.02.03
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160203-MY-critic-620 Mukhriz Mahathir (center) speaks during a press conference in Alor Setar, Kedah, at which he announced his resignation as chief minister of the state, Feb. 3, 2016.
BenarNews

The son of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday he was forced to resign as chief minister of Kedah state for criticizing Najib Razak, the ruling PM shadowed by a financial scandal connected to state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Mukhriz Mahathir told a news conference in Alor Setar, the state capital, that the state assembly had voted to remove him from office following moves by his own party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), to boot him out.

“I was informed that I have lost the majority support in the Kedah state legislative assembly during a secret vote before the Kedah Regency Council… following the plot to remove me from the office and to shut me up from voicing for the people concerning various national issues,” said Mukhriz, 51.

The resignation is the latest twist in a scandal that has triggered criminal probes in Singapore, Switzerland and other countries. It has led to calls for Najib to step down over revelations of a nearly U.S. $700 million deposit into his private banks accounts ahead of the 2013 general election.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister’s office said Mukhriz had lost the support of the state assembly and UMNO members.

“This was due to a lack of confidence in his leadership, both as Menteri Besar [chief minister] and state party leader, and concerns that better preparations were needed to retain Kedah in the 14th General Election,” the PM’s office said in a statement posted on Facebook.

“The Prime Minister believes that the party and government must be disciplined and work together as a united team to combat the economic and security challenges Malaysia currently faces,” the statement added.

‘The real reason’

Mukhriz’s father Mahathir Mohamad, one of Najib’s most vocal critics, is among those who have called for the PM to resign.

Mukhriz Wednesday said his ouster had nothing to do with his governing ability or any rejection by the people of Kedah.

“The real reason for such harsh action against me is because of my criticisms of the prime minister, which he himself acknowledged,” the ex-chief minister added.

Mukhriz is the latest senior official to fall following criticism of the 1MDB scandal.

Among those given the boot are former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, former UMNO divisional boss Khairuddin Abu Hassan and former Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, who was probing the corruption allegations against Najib when he was terminated for “health reasons” in July.

Legal moves against AG

On Wednesday, Khairuddin filed a judicial motion at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur against Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali over his decision last week to clear Najib of potential corruption-related charges in probes linked to 1MDB.

On Tuesday, former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim also filed suit against Apandi for his decision to clear Najib’s name in the scandal.

In announcing his decision, Apandi said “no criminal offense” had been committed and that the $681 million was “a personal donation” to Najib from the Saudi royal family.

Most of the money – U.S. $620 million (2.03 billion ringgit) – was eventually returned to the donor, according to Apandi, but he did not say what the donation was intended for or what happened to the remaining $61 million.

“This issue has been an unnecessary distraction for the country. Now that the matter has been comprehensively put to rest, it is time for us to unite and move on,” Najib said after the AG’s announcement.

Najib chairs the indebted state fund’s advisory board.

Swiss, Singaporean probes

Last week, Switzerland’s attorney general announced his office was requesting Malaysia’s help in determining whether $4 billion (16.57 billion ringgit) in funds from 1MDB and affiliated companies had been misappropriated.

A small portion of the money had been transferred into Swiss bank accounts held by former Malaysian public officials and current and former public officials from the United Arab Emirates, the Swiss attorney-general’s office said Friday.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the office told Reuters that Prime Minister Najib was not among the officials under investigation.

On Monday, authorities in neighboring Singapore announced that they had seized many bank accounts in the city-state as part of investigations into possible money-laundering related to probes of 1MDB, media widely reported.

“Singapore does not tolerate the use of its financial system as a refuge or conduit for illicit funds,” said a joint statement by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and its Commercial Affairs Department.

“In connection with these investigations, we have sought and are continuing to seek information from several financial institutions, are interviewing various individuals, and have seized a large number of bank accounts.”

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