Najib aide turns focus to ambitions of Mahathir, son

Malaysia's former premier Mahathir Mohamad's son Mukhriz Mahathir.
Malaysia's former premier Mahathir Mohamad's son Mukhriz Mahathir. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • The focus of the political battle between Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad turned yesterday to the former premier's son Mukhriz Mahathir.

Datuk Seri Najib's press secretary, Datuk Seri Tengku Sariffuddin Tengku Ahmad, issued a statement calling on Dr Mahathir to name an alternative prime minister if he wanted to stop speculation that he was paving the way for his son to be the leader, Bernama reported.

"Why does he (Dr Mahathir) always avoid answering this one simple but essential question? Why is he consistently evasive about his plans for Datuk Seri Mukhriz's political future?

"If he still refuses (to name the alternative candidate), he should stop this distraction for Malaysia and quietly retire with the grace people expect of a former statesman," he said.

Dr Mahathir has been leading the charge to unseat Mr Najib, accusing the Prime Minister of corruption as well as economic mismanagement.

The statement by Tengku Sariffuddin followed the publication in the Hong Kong English-language daily, South China Morning Post, of an interview with Mr Mukhriz in which he reiterated that he had no ambitions to be prime minister while also denying allegations that his father's main motivation in campaigning for Mr Najib's ouster was to see him become leader.

"It's totally absurd and they (Mr Najib and his supporters) should know him better than that as he (Dr Mahathir) was their boss for 22 years," Mr Mukhriz said.

But, referring to the denial, Tengku Sariffuddin asked why Mr Mukhriz, the former Kedah menteri besar, had contested the Umno vice-president post in 2013.

He said everyone in Malaysian politics knew that only someone who wanted to be Umno president, and then by default prime minister, would contest the vice-president post as it was a key step to the top.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 24, 2016, with the headline 'Najib aide turns focus to ambitions of Mahathir, son'. Subscribe