Malaysian police to probe ex-PM Mahathir over rally comments on PM Najib

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (centre) waving at the Berish rally in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 30, 2015.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (centre) waving at the Berish rally in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 30, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad will be questioned over statements he made at massive weekend demonstrations held to demand current Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ouster over corruption allegations, police said on Wednesday (Sept 2).

Tun Dr Mahathir, 90, who was Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister, electrified crowds at the demonstrations by tens of thousands in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday by calling for a sustained public push to topple Datuk Seri Najib.

He also accused Datuk Seri Najib of bribing politicians in the ruling Umno party for their support, saying the premier was clinging to power to avoid corruption charges.

“We will call him (Mahathir). He has made speeches and accusations,” national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar was quoted as saying by online news outlet Malaysiakini.

“Among them, he claimed Umno leaders had taken bribes, so we want to find out more.” The report gave no further details.

Malaysia’s ruling coalition routinely hauls in opponents who take part in anti-government actions in what the opposition calls a pattern of systematic harassment.

It was not clear whether Dr Mahathir, who remains influential in the ruling party, would face any charges.

Organisers of the weekend demonstrations also have said they had been ordered to report to police on Wednesday.

Datuk Seri Najib has been under growing pressure since The Wall Street Journal revealed in early July that Malaysian investigators had found nearly US$700 million (S$990 million) in mysterious deposits into his personal bank accounts.

His government has since admitted the deposits occurred, calling them “political donations” from Middle Eastern sources but refusing to give further details.

Outrage over the scandal has been heightened by subsequent government personnel moves by Datuk Seri Najib – including sacking Malaysia’s attorney-general – that appear to have stalled investigations.

The Prime Minister had been facing demands for months that he explain the whereabouts of huge sums allegedly missing from deals involving a state-owned company he launched.

He denies any wrongdoing, saying he is the victim of a “political conspiracy”.