KUALA LUMPUR — The son of former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned as the top leader of a federal state Wednesday, saying he was ousted because he had criticized Prime Minister Najib Razak over a US$700 million financial scandal.
Mukhriz Mahathir said he had lost majority support in the Kedah state assembly following a party bid to remove him as chief minister. Mahathir has been leading calls for Najib to step down, and Mukriz’s ouster was seen as a continuing purge of critics in Najib’s government.
The prime minister’s office in a statement said Mukhriz lost majority support because of a lack of confidence in his leadership and concerns that better preparations were needed for the party to retain the state in general elections due in 2018.
Mukhriz, however, warned that the ruling Malay party was now at “its weakest point,” tainted by scandal-ridden state investment fund 1MDB and more than $700 million that was channeled into Najib’s personal bank accounts.
The attorney general last week cleared Najib of any criminal wrongdoing, saying most of the money in his accounts was a private donation from the Saudi royal family and that Najib had returned most of it.
Authorities in Switzerland, Singapore and other countries are still investigating 1MDB for possible graft, and two former Malaysian officials also have challenged the attorney general’s decisions.
“Scandal after scandal, we can’t take it all. It’s too much for us. This is traumatizing all of us,” Mukhriz said.
1MDB is mired in 42 billion ringgit ($10.1 billion) in debt and has been selling its assets to clear its books. Najib, who formed 1MDB in 2009, became embroiled in the scandal after documents were leaked last year suggesting that money deposited into his accounts may have come from entities linked to 1MDB.