Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is wading deeper into a corruption scandal involving current Prime Minister Najib Razak. He has ratcheted up pressure on Najib to resign and described Malaysia as “a pariah state…where anyone can be hauled up and questioned by the police, detained and charged through abusing laws of the country," the Sydney Morning Herald reported Monday. Mahathir has called for months for Najib to step down.
Accusations leveled against Najib in July alleged that he had taken $700 million from a state investment fund, the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, and deposited them into his personal bank accounts. Najib denied taking the fund’s money for personal use; and in August, the country’s anti-corruption commission cleared him of those charges, saying the money had actually come from foreign donors.
Protesters, whom Mahathir supports, have nevertheless continued to demand Najib's resignation, while the sultans of Malaysia’s states have called for an investigation into a scandal that they said had wrought a “crisis of confidence” in the country. Mahathir has also said that the scandal created political uncertainty and hurt investment prospects in Malaysia.
The 91-year-old Mahathir, who served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and is the country’s longest-serving premier, wrote in a recent blog post that Malaysia’s people had lost faith in a government that had failed to fully investigate Najib and the actions of which he was accused. After the allegations emerged, Najib dismissed a deputy prime minister, and he also cracked down on political opposition. Najib took office in 2009.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) September 9, 2015
“No one, not even the rulers, may comment on obvious government abuses of the laws of the country,” Mahathir wrote in a blog post Friday. Malaysian police arrested one of Mahathir’s lawyers Thursday, but it was not clear what charges would be filed against him.
“I think if the prime minister is not there, confidence [in Malaysia] will return,” he told the Diplomat Wednesday, adding, however, that he was “pessimistic” that it would actually happen. “A leader must be concerned about the country, not about himself,” he added.