Malaysia police cut short Mahathir's speech at 1MDB forum, sparking media scrum

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stole the show when he addressed a crowd at an dialogue which was supposed to have featured Datuk Seri Najib Razak fielding questions on issues surrounding the troubled 1MDB. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM VIDEO/ THE STAR/ ASIA NEW
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stole the show when he addressed a crowd at an dialogue which was supposed to have featured Datuk Seri Najib Razak fielding questions on issues surrounding the troubled 1MDB. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM VIDEO/ THE STAR/ ASIA NEWS NETWORK
A police officer stepping on stage to ask former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to stop speaking during the Nothing2Hide forum in Kuala Lumpur on June 5, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
A police officer stepping on stage to ask former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to stop speaking during the Nothing2Hide forum in Kuala Lumpur on June 5, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

MALAYSIA'S longest serving prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad stole the show when he addressed a crowd at an dialogue which was supposed to have featured Datuk Seri Najib Razak fielding questions on issues surrounding the troubled 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Datuk Seri Najib was scheduled to appear at 10am on Friday but Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar tweeted at about 8.50am that the event was cancelled on orders from police due to public safety.

Organisers of the Nothing2Hide forum, which was billed as a "dialogue with the PM", said the event was postponed due to security concerns but "Tun Mahathir would speak to you".

Dr Mahathir's entrance was greeted with loud applause and shouts of "Long Live Tun" by an excited crowd at the Putra World Trade Centre.

"I come here to speak on something that is missing, that belongs to all of us," said the 89-year-old at the start of his speech.

"Are we independent or are we still colonised? Najib gives in too much to Singapore, America."

But a few minutes into his speech, Dr Mahathir was cut short by three police officers who went up on stage to stop him from speaking. After the interruption, the microphone and two large video screens beaming Dr Mahathir's figure at the lectern were cut off.

The crowds broke into shouts of "no" while members of the press rushed onto the stage in a mad scrum. Dr Mahathir calmly sat down and spoke with the reporters.

Dr Mahathir earlier criticised Prime Minister Najib for not reviving the former premier's ambition of building a "crooked bridge" linking Johor to Singapore's side of the Causeway. In recent months, he has also been calling for Mr Najib's resignation for alleged fraud in the state-owned investment fund, 1MDB, which has piled up RM42 billion (S$15.25 billion) in debts over the last six years.

Mr Najib's no-show at Friday's forum has left some members of his Umno party disappointed.

"This opportunity should have been taken by PM. If he really has nothing to hide, he should relay it today," Datuk Hamidah Osman, Umno Women chief of Gopeng, Perak, told The Straits Times.

"This is his best opportunity for him to knock down Dr Mahathir. Unfortunately, because he didn't come, I see Tun Mahathir (as the one) on the winning side."

amychew@sph.com.sg