Mahathir: Najib must be ousted or M'sia will suffer
Msia's former PM attacks current PM, promises to campaign for opposition
PUTRAJAYA Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has accused current leader Najib Razak of "destroying" the country by clinging to power despite a corruption scandal. Dr Mahathir also vowed to campaign vigorously for the opposition at the next election.
In an interview with AFP, Dr Mahathir, 91, criticized Mr Najib over the sensational graft allegations swirling around the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) sovereign wealth fund.
Dr Mahathir, who strove to subdue Malaysia's opposition parties during his time in office from 1981 to 2003, said he could now work with them - including the party of his jailed former deputy Anwar Ibrahim - to topple Mr Najib.
"(Najib) is destroying this country... he is bringing in racism... very, very serious crime has been committed," Dr Mahathir said on Tuesday at his office in Putrajaya.
In a July lawsuit, the US Justice Department detailed how an unnamed "Malaysian Official No. 1" - later identified as Mr Najib - and his family members and close associates diverted billions from 1MDB, which he had founded.
Under mounting pressure over the allegations, Mr Najib last year abruptly shut down Malaysian investigations, fired the attorney general and purged ruling party critics.
Mr Najib, 63, and 1MDB have denied any wrongdoing.
Dr Mahathir was once Mr Najib's mentor, but he has since come out of political retirement to attack him over 1MDB.
He also formed a political party in hopes of toppling the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno).
"For me, overthrowing Najib is far more important than any personal feeling I have about anything else," Dr Mahathir said, in reference to patching up with Anwar and working with the opposition.
Last month, tens of thousands of Malaysians flooded Kuala Lumpur to express anger over the graft allegations.
At the rally, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia was "controlled by thieves" and called for a sustained push to topple Mr Najib.
Dr Mahathir, who helped propel decades of economic growth for Malaysia, warned that the country is in for tough times if Mr Najib is not ousted.
Looking healthy and cheerful, Dr Mahathir predicted Mr Najib would play the race card to win support in the Malay-majority nation before the next election, which is due by 2018.
"He wants the election to be Malays against Chinese or Chinese against Malays," Dr Mahathir said.
Mr Najib and Umno no longer have popular support in Malaysia, Dr Mahathir said, predicting that the opposition could win the election.
"Wherever I go, people actually curse Najib," he said.
Yet just last week, Mr Najib told an Umno gathering that he would "fight until the death", and showed no sign of succumbing to calls to quit.
Mr Najib also labelled Dr Mahathir a traitor, and warned of "nightmares" if Umno lost and the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party came to power.
"Unless he cheats in the election, (Najib) is not going to win," Dr Mahathir said.
"Most of our (new party) members are actually from Umno. Among Malays, the hatred for Umno is unbelievable."
But Mr Najib's position so far appears unassailable, with support from most of the 191 powerful Umno division chiefs.
Dr Mahathir said he considered it a national duty to topple Mr Najib.
"I know very soon I have to go the way other people go. I will die. But if I am alive and still capable, just to be selfish and think of my own comfort, I think is wrong. I want to do something for this country," he said.
"The main thing is they (the opposition) and I agree that Najib is the destroyer of this country and should be removed."