[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said no one should try to interfere with or hijack his leadership as former premier Mahathir Mohamad called for a vote of no confidence against him.
Mr Najib said on Facebook on Friday it was up to the people who elected him "to give and to take away" his mandate and the right doesn't fall to any "individual, however eminent." On his blog Thursday, Dr Mahathir said Malaysians were worried and angry, and alleged abuse of power and corruption by Najib's administration.
Mr Najib has denied impropriety amid accusations by some members of his party and the opposition after it was disclosed 2.6 billion ringgit (US$624 million) of political donations ended up in his private accounts in 2013. He has also resisted calls from the 90-year-old Mahathir to step down over the performance and allegations of irregularities of a state investment company.
"As prime minister, it is my responsibility to make the right decisions for all Malaysians," Mr Najib said in a Facebook posting. "It is a sacred trust, and no one should attempt to interfere with or hijack that obligation to lead." The Wall Street Journal reported on July 3 that about US$700 million may have moved through government agencies and companies linked to debt-ridden 1Malaysia Development Bhd before ending up in accounts bearing Najib's name. The Malaysian Anti- Corruption Commission said the money in Mr Najib's accounts was from donors in the Middle East, and not from 1MDB.
Mr Najib has denied taking money for personal gain. The receipt of political funds was to meet the needs of the party and the community and wasn't a new practice, the official Bernama news agency reported Aug 9, citing Mr Najib.
"All donations in the past were made to the party's fund operated by the trustees," Dr Mahathir wrote. Mr Najib "has openly said that since they received money from him they should support him. This is bribery," he said.
Mr Najib's spokesman declined to comment on the remarks by Dr Mahathir, who was premier for 22 years until 2003.
Mr Najib has counterattacked against what he described as a campaign to oust him by reshuffling his cabinet and removing Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin who had called for "the real truth" on 1MDB. Former Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, who helped to lead a 1MDB probe, was replaced for health reasons, while a task force investigating the company has been dismantled.
The task force comprised the central bank, police, the anti-corruption commission and attorney general's office. MACC said this month it was told by the attorney general that the task force was no longer needed and that each investigating party can conduct its own probe using its respective authority.
The prime minister has a grip on power with the help of his United Malays National Organisation, which leads an alliance and has governed Malaysia since 1957. The Parliament website shows Mr Najib's Barisan Nasional coalition holds 134 seats, the opposition has 87 and one is held by an independent.
The opposition is hoping 25 Barisan Nasional members of parliament would support a no-confidence vote against Mr Najib, Rafizi Ramli, vice president of the People's Justice Party, said in a statement on Friday.