Mahathir seeks to meet Umno grassroots to explain recent Najib attacks

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday he is seeking to meet the grassroots members of the ruling Umno party to explain the recent series of attacks he has lobbed at Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Writing in his latest blog post, Tun Dr Mahathir said he felt it was only fair that the party should hear the positions of both sides on the issue, the Malaysian Insider reported.

Dr Mahathir has in recent weeks piled pressure on Datuk Seri Najib, by publicly calling on him to step down over his handling of debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and other issues. But his criticism of Mr Najib has led some Umno leaders and supporters to question his actions, saying they were damaging to the party.

"I hope I am given the opportunity to meet Umno members to explain the problems related to the loss of billions of ringgit by Najib. After listening to both sides, then judge my 'attacks', whether I am destroying the party or trying to save it," he wrote.

Dr Mahathir has previously called on Umno to remove Mr Najib from his post as prime minister if the ruling party wants to avoid losses in the 2018 General Election. He has said he was speaking out publicly as he was concerned over the future of the party after Mr Najib led the Barisan Nasional coalition to its worst showing ever in the 2013 polls.

"Only those who do not see this will not realise that Umno under Najib has failed to revive the party after Tun Abdullah," he said, referring to Najib's precedessor, Tun Abdullah Badawi. Mr Abdullah suceeded Dr Mahathir in October 2003 and stepped down in 2009 following the BN's poor performance in the 2008 election.

"Najib's chances of winning is very much slimmer," Dr Mahathir said.

Mr Najib has so far brushed off the intense criticism from Dr Mahathir. In a speech on Tuesday, he vowed not to "back down and surrender" while stressing that his government was transparent. He has also insisted that he has the support of his Cabinet ministers and would not stand alone as long as his goals remained "pure".