Mahathir slams finding of anti-corruption agency

Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad speaks in a dialogue at the 21st International Conference of The Future of Asia at a hotel in Tokyo on May 22, 2015.
Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad speaks in a dialogue at the 21st International Conference of The Future of Asia at a hotel in Tokyo on May 22, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Former premier Mahathir Mohamad has slammed the finding that Middle Eastern sources donated US$700 million (S$970 million) to Prime Minister Najib Razak's bank accounts, saying it is "b******t" and that "Arabs are generous, but not that generous".

"Who in the world would donate US$700 million to the Malaysian Prime Minister?" he wrote in his blog yesterday. "Certainly I don't believe it and neither can the majority of Malaysians if we go by the comments on the social media. The world had a good laugh," he added.

These were Tun Dr Mahathir's first comments after the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) last week declared the massive funds deposited into Datuk Seri Najib's accounts as donations from unnamed Middle Eastern sources, and not from troubled state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

In a scathing post, Dr Mahathir also claimed that as the Prime Minister "could not control" members of the Special Task Force set up to investigate 1MDB's operations, Mr Najib then "decided to take action to stop all the investigations".

The Attorney-General, whose office is part of the task force, was replaced for "health reasons".

Separately, the police raided MACC offices and questioned its officers over leaks during 1MDB's investigation. Calling what Mr Najib is doing unprecedented, Dr Mahathir said that the prospect of him continuing to run the country is "utterly depressing". "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," he said.

While Dr Mahathir has called for Mr Najib to step down, he said at an event yesterday that street protests to oust Mr Najib should be held only as a "last resort".

His comments come as a scathing speech made at the recent Langkawi Umno Women's division meeting went viral. In the speech, participant Anina Saaduddin claimed that Mr Najib was "lying every day" to Umno members.

Mr Najib did not immediately respond to Dr Mahathir, but he had always maintained that the funds he received were not for personal gain, but for Umno's benefit.

On Sunday, Mr Najib told delegates at the Pasir Gudang Umno division meeting in Johor that Umno had always received political donations, even when Dr Mahathir was in office.

Party funding was the party president's responsibility and he was just continuing the practice, he said. "The party machinery cannot move when the money does not come, even the menteris besarcan ask from me… but from whom can I ask?" he was quoted as saying. "That is why I have to work at it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'Mahathir slams finding of anti-corruption agency'. Print Edition | Subscribe