Ex-Malaysian PM Razak, wife banned from leaving country

13 May, 2018, 01:21 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Citizens were already sick of racially divisive politics in the multi-ethnic country and graft scandals under years of rule by the coalition

"I have been informed that the Malaysian Immigration Department has prohibited me and my family from travelling overseas".

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. The 92-year-old election-winner also said he had replaced the attorney general who had cleared Najib in the state fund corruption scandal investigation.

Mahathir on Saturday confirmed he had personally crestrictions on Najib after the former premier said he would take a short break to consider his future. Malaysia's electoral commission also redrew the country's districts in an aggressive gerrymandering exercise that clearly benefited Najib, and the government even temporarily dissolved Mahathir's party in April.

He did not give further details about his plans.

After the reports of his flight emerged on Friday night, dozens of people, accompanied by a large pack of journalists, had descended on the small airport just outside the capital in the early hours to protest his departure.

Najib never appeared at the airport.

And while Mahathir announced some cabinet members on Saturday, cracks are already starting to show in his coalition, a disparate group of parties that Najib described as a "motley collection". Some of the crowd peered into arriving vehicles, but there was no indication Mr. Najib and his wife were there.

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They tried to rock the vehicle and one man shouted "I hate Rosmah". The ex-leader's wife is hugely unpopular, due to her imperious manner and a reported love of luxury shopping trips. It was only allowed to pass after those inside rolled down a window to prove Najib was not in the van.

"The bureaucracy and the rest of the government apparatus has never been used to this idea, having been, you know, more than 60 years under the same political party", he said. "I don't want them to get out of the country".

Separately, Najib announced Saturday he would step down as president of UMNO and chairman of the broader Barisan Nasional coalition. U.S. investigators say Najib's associates illegally took billions from the fund, with millions ending up in Najib's bank account or being used to buy jewelry for his wife.

Filings by the US Justice Department in a civil lawsuit indicated almost $30 million of the money stolen was used to buy jewellery for Rosmah, including a rare 22-carat pink diamond set in a necklace.

But he came out of retirement and defected to the opposition in a bid to unseat Najib over allegations that huge sums were looted from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, which Najib set up and oversaw.

Mahathir said the new government would seek the release and full pardon of Anwar Ibrahim, an opposition leader imprisoned on sodomy charges that Anwar and his supporters said were fabricated by the National Front to crush the opposition.

Mahathir had promised, if elected, to free Anwar and eventually hand power over to him.

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