Former Malaysian PM Najib resigns as party chief, barred from leaving country

Arturo Kim
May 13, 2018

It capped a dramatic comeback for Mahathir, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years and came out of retirement to take on Prime Minister Najib Razak after the leader became embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.

Speaking to the media at the time and in response to a journalist's question, then-former Malaysian PM Najib Razak said that the outcome of the Malaysian general election (GE14) would not change the nature of relations between Malaysia and Singapore.

Two sources told Reuters on Friday that new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad planned to reopen investigations into the graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) that has plagued Najib since 2015.

Mr Najib denies any wrongdoing.

On the campaign trail, Mahathir lambasted Najib as a "thief" and in the aftermath of his election win, he said he is not seeking revenge but the rule of law will be fully implemented.

Razak added "If the party failed in the general election, the leader has the moral obligation to step aside".

"It is true that I prevented Najib from leaving the country".

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In a historic election earlier this week, Najib's BN coalition, which had been in power since Malaysia's independence in 1957, lost to the Pakatan Harapan coalition led by Mahathir Mohamad, who took office as Prime Minister.

Later on Saturday, Mr Najib told a news conference in Kuala Lumpur that he was stepping down with immediate effect as president of the United Malays National Organisation as well as chairman of the National Front coalition. He apologized for his mistakes and shortcomings and said he intends to continue serving the people.

"I pray that after this divisive period, the country will unite", he wrote as part of his posts on Twitter and Facebook.

He is alleged to have received about 700 million dollars through his personal bank account from a Malaysian state fund 3 years ago.

The fund was started by Najib when he took power in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts and is being investigated in the USA and several other countries. Mahathir also named former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin as the home or interior minister and Mohamad Sabu, a long-time opposition politician, as the defence minister. Najib has said the deposit was a donation by an unnamed member of the Saudi royal family which had been largely returned.

In a ceremony at the National Palace steeped in centuries-old Muslim Malay tradition, Mahathir was officially sworn in as prime minister by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V.

Mahathir has indicated that Mohamed Apandi would be fired for hiding evidence of wrongdoing. Reuters saw about 20 police officers enter the marble-floored lobby of the Pavilion Residences apartment block in the Malaysian capital, just as Mahathir was holding a news conference to announce key members of his cabinet.

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