KUALA LUMPUR - The granddaughter of former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad has been drawn into the political fray after two newspapers controlled by ruling party Umno splashed photographs of her alleged lavish lifestyle in their pages.
Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian carried social media pictures of Meera Alyana Mukhriz on Sunday (Nov 12), claiming in their articles that she lived a celebrity lifestyle, wearing designer clothes and travelling on a yacht.
Berita Harian's front page article was titled "The luxurious life of Dr Mahathir's granddaughter", and was accompanied by pictures of Meera and her younger sister Melia Serena on a boat with a friend.
The two girls are daughters of Tun Mahathir's son Mukhriz, who was formerly Menteri Besar of Kedah.
Dr Mahathir and Mukhriz left Umno after clashing with Prime Minister Najib Razak over alleged misappropriation of funds at scandal-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB).
They are both now leaders in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which is part of the opposition pact Pakatan Harapan that has run "anti-kleptocracy" rallies criticising the Najib administration.
Social activist Marina Mahathir has defended her niece, telling news site The Malaysian Insight that the newspapers were simply trying to draw attention away from the 1MDB scandal.
"Desperate people trying to distract from this," she said in a text message to TMI, referring to an article claiming that Prime Minister Najib Razak's stepson, Riza Aziz, bought luxurious properties in London, Beverly Hills and New York using funds allegedly misappropriated from state fund 1MDB.
According to Utusan Malaysia, Meera, who is known by her nickname Ally, travelled around the world in a boat named after her. The Malay language daily said the boat was given to her by her father.
"Her (Meera) life is the envy of many women in the country. This proves that former prime minister Dr Mahathir's granddaughter is only human and is unable to resist the allures of a princess' and celebrity lifestyle," the article said.