EMBATTLED Prime Minister Najib Razak says Malaysia’s constitutional monarch has explained his controversial meeting last week with former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is leading a nationwide campaign seeking his removal.
According to Najib, the king, also referred to in Malaysia as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, told him that he had during the meeting at his palace in the state of Kedah “taken note of” Dr Mahathir’s concerns.
“However,” Najib said in a statement, “the Yang di-Pertuan Agong went on to explain to Dr Mahathir that he cannot interfere in PPBM’s efforts.”
PPBM is the Malay acronym for Dr Mahathir’s newly-formed political platform, Parti Pribumi Malaysia Bersatu, which roughly translates to the Malaysian United Natives Party.
“This is because the declaration made by PPBM does not comply with the Federal Constitution. And any action that is to be taken should be in accordance with general practices, which is through Parliament and the election system, so that the people can make their own decisions,” Najib continued.
Last week, it was reported that Dr Mahathir was granted a rare audience with the King at his residence in Kedah.
During the meeting, according to the former premier’s son and aides, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah and Dr Mahathir discussed the latter’s bid to seek Najib’s removal over his alleged involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal, among several other alleged transgressions.
Dr Mahathir also reportedly handed over a petition signed by over one million Malaysians calling for Najib’s resignation.
Malaysia’s mostly government-owned mainstream media did not carry reports on the meeting and the matter was kept hushed.
Dr Mahathir had in May attempted to submit the same petition to the king but later complained he had not been able to because the country’s rulers were allegedly placed under house arrest. His comment landed him in trouble with local authorities who summoned him for questioning in a criminal defamation investigation.
The 89-year-old Sultan Abdul Halim, is currently serving as Malaysia’s ‘Agong’ under a unique rotational system introduced toward the end of British colonial rule in the 1950s’ in which nine sultans take turns to become the constitutional monarch for a period of five years.
1MDB, an investment company fully owned by the Malaysian government, was created in 2009 by Najib to promote economic development projects.
But following numerous exposes by foreign media and local opposition lawmakers, it was revealed that billions of dollars from the firm had been misappropriated.
According to U.S. prosecutors, fund officials have diverted more than US$3.5 billion through a web of shell companies and bank accounts abroad.
Anti-government dissidents in Malaysia have been campaigning long and hard against Najib, who they believe is corruptly involved in the scandal. One of them is pro-democracy group Bersih 2.0, also known as the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, which is planning to hold a mass rally in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 19 to demand Najib’s resignation.
In July, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit seeking the seizure of more than US$1 billion in assets allegedly bought with money siphoned from 1MDB.
The lawsuit only named “Malaysian Official 1” and did not directly mention Najib but the prime minister’s critics believe it refers to him. Abdul Rahman Dahlan, a key leader in Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, recently told a BBC interview that “MO1” refers to Najib.