Malaysia's Mahathir says 'democracy is dead' under PM Najib's rule

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 10, 2015 5:40 AM

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's former leader Mahathir Mohamad launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday, saying democracy in the country is dead and that he should be questioned by police about the country's troubled state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad [TERRN.UL].

Najib has been under growing pressure over accusations of financial mismanagement at the fund, known as 1MDB, and his leadership of Malaysia's faltering economy.

Last month he sacked his deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, replaced the country's attorney general and transferred officers involved in an investigation into 1MDB.

He has also suspended two of the country's newspapers and blocked access to a website, Sarawak Report, that has been reporting on the graft scandal.

"Democracy is dead. It is dead because an elected leader chooses to subvert the institutions of government and make them his instruments for sustaining himself," Mahathir said, writing on his personal blog.

The Prime Minister's office did not immediately comment on Mahathir's remarks.

Najib has blamed Mahathir for being behind corruption allegations made against him, which he says are unfounded, saying this began when he refused to implement Mahathir's personal demands.

Mahathir, Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister, has become Najib's fiercest critic and withdrew support for him last year after the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition lost a popular vote in the 2013 elections.

The 90-year-old, who was once Najib's patron and remains highly influential in the country, has called for the prime minister to step down over the 1MDB furor.

However, Najib still retains significant support from the long-ruling BN coalition and from within his party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

"What Najib is doing is unprecedented in Malaysia," said Mahathir.

"The people are at a loss as to what to do. The prospect of Najib continuing to rule this country is utterly depressing."

The Wall Street Journal reported in July that investigators looking into allegations of graft and financial mismanagement at 1MDB found that nearly $700 million was deposited into Najib's accounts. Reuters has not verified the report.

Najib has denied taking any money for personal gain, saying the allegations are part of a malicious campaign to force him from office.

Malaysia's anti-graft unit said last week that it would ask Najib to explain a 2.6 billion ringgit donation that was deposited into his private bank account, adding that the sum was given by a donor from the Middle East.

Najib said on Saturday that the unit has found the money that went into his account was not a bribe and did not belong to 1MDB, though the anti-corruption commission is yet to confirm this.

Malaysia's political uncertainties are weighing on its currency, with the ringgit slumping to lows last seen during the Asian financial crisis 17 years ago.

(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Rachel Armstrong)