KUALA LUMPUR • A senior leader of Malaysia's ruling party quit yesterday, the latest among several party officials to leave or be sacked after criticising Prime Minister Najib Razak over a multibillion-dollar financial scandal involving a state-owned fund.
Recent electoral wins and a gradual recovery in the economy have allowed Mr Najib to sack more critics and reshuffle his Cabinet, bringing in loyalists ahead of a general election that may be held as early as next year.
Mr Shafie Apdal, who as a vice-president was the fifth-most senior leader of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), resigned two weeks after two other senior leaders were sacked by the party over their criticism of Mr Najib's handling of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
"Justice is not being done. There is no justice in the way Umno is being run," Mr Shafie said yesterday at a rally in his home constituency of Semporna, a ruling party stronghold in the Borneo state of Sabah. The rally was telecast on social media. Mr Shafie does not hold any post in government.
Mr Najib has a tight grip over Umno. He emerged stronger last month as the party's supreme council sacked deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin and Mr Mukhriz Mahathir, the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. It also suspended Mr Shafie, pending investigations into his conduct by the disciplinary board. All three leaders have been sharp critics of Mr Najib, calling for his resignation following the allegations of graft and mismanagement at 1MDB.
But the sackings and Mr Shafie's suspension sparked an internal revolt, with local Umno leaders in Semporna resigning en bloc in protest.
Earlier yesterday, Dr Shahruddin Md Salleh, an Umno state legislator from Mr Muhyiddin's home state of Johor, quit all his party posts.
Mr Najib, who chaired the advisory board of 1MDB, has faced intense pressure following revelations that US$681 million (S$916 million) had been deposited into his personal account. Mr Najib has denied any wrongdoing.