Former Malaysia leader Mahathir attends protests, denounces PM Najib
Former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad on Sunday accused current Prime Minister Najib Razak of clinging to power to avoid prosecution over a financial scandal, as he lent his weight to protests gripping the capital.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators have turned out this weekend for demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur and other cities to demand Najib’s resignation.
Participants were electrified by a Sunday afternoon appearance in the capital by Mahathir, 90, who remains an influential figure.
“I think he (Najib) will not step down,” Mahathir told a hastily arranged press conference.
“He knows when he has no power, he may be made to face the court. The court may find him guilty and he may have to go to jail.”
Najib has been under fire since the Wall Street Journal last month published Malaysian documents showing nearly $700 million had been deposited into his personal bank accounts beginning in 2013.
His cabinet ministers have called the transfers “political donations” from unidentified Middle Eastern sources, but have given no details. Official investigations into the scandal appear to have been stalled.
Mahathir has been a fierce critic of Najib’s rule for more than a year. But his attendance at the demonstration has surprised many who remember the uncompromising stance he took against dissent during his 1981-2003 rule.
“If the government ignores the law, we have to demonstrate. If you look at (former Philippine president Ferdinand) Marcos, when he was ruling the Philippines they had to overthrow him through demonstrations,” said Mahathir, who also apologised for his role in aiding Najib’s rise to power.