Dr Mahathir: Calls for PM to step down after US disclosure

KUALA LUMPUR 04 MARCH 2016. Bekas Perdana Menteri, Tun Mahathir Mohamad (tengah) mengadakan sidang media di Kelab Persatuan Alumni UM. Turut hadir, bekas Timbalan Perdana Menteri, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin (kiri) dan Menteri Besar Selangor, Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali (kanan). NSTP/ASYRAF HAMZAH

(The Star) – The US Department of Justice’s (DoJ) disclosure of a civil lawsuit on Wednesday to seize and recover more than US$1bil (RM4.02bil) of 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) money has led to calls for a peaceful rally, a referendum and an independent tribunal to probe the debacle and push for the resignation of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said these were among the measures that could be taken to remove Najib whom he believed to be the “Malaysian Official 1” cited in the DoJ lawsuit.

“I think it’s time for the nation to demand the removal of the prime minister and investigations by an independent tribunal to be set up with the consent of the King,” he told a press conference at Perdana Leadership Foundation here Thursday.

Dr Mahathir claimed this was necessary as Najib had held sway over 1MDB, which had reportedly “stolen” the rakyat’s money as cited in the case.

The former premier also suggested having a referendum or a peaceful rally by the people to demand Najib’s resignation.

“In Malaysia, we are nice people and don’t normally hold rallies but if the people feel strongly about it, they should have a peaceful rally to demand the kleptocrat’s resignation,” he added.

Datuk S. Ambiga, former Bersih co-chair, said Bersih was considering organising a peaceful rally for the purpose.

“Bersih is considering whether or not to hold such a rally,” she said.

Also present were former MCA president Tan Sri Dr Ling Liong Sik, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and Parti Amanah Negara’s Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad.

On Wednesday night, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the investigation was carried out by the US Government’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative to recover more than US$1bil obtained from corruption allegedly involving 1MDB.

The assets to be seized included high-end real estate and hotel properties in New York City, Los Angeles and London, artwork by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, a US$35mil (RM143mil) jet and “any rights to profits, royalties and distribution proceeds” from “The Wolf of Wall Street” film.

The complaints filed alleged that there were three major recipients of the misappropriated funds – Taek Jho Low, a business tycoon in setting up 1MDB and its subsequent dealings, Riza Aziz who is Najib’s stepson and co-founder of the Los Angeles-based film company Red Granite Pictures, and Khadem Al Qubaisi, a former Abu Dhabi official whose sovereign-wealth fund was involved with the government investment arm.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Apandi Ali had absolved Najib of any wrongdoing relating to 1MDB.