Malaysia PM slammed af­ter he fails to face crit­ics on scan­dal

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Malaysia’s em­bat­tled prime min­is­ter pro­voked fierce crit­i­cism Fri­day by not at­tend­ing an event at which he was to de­fend him­self over an es­ca­lat­ing scan­dal threat­en­ing to en­gulf his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak had been ex­pected to use the public fo­rum to hit back at crit­ics of a state-owned devel­op­ment com­pany he launched that is reel­ing un­der bil­lions of dol­lars of debt and ac­cu­sa­tions of fraud.

But af­ter 89-year-old for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Ma­hathir Mo­hamad — the chief voice push­ing for Na­jib’s ouster over the af­fair — showed up to speak at the event, po­lice or­dered it shut down, cit­ing un­spec­i­fied “public or­der and na­tional har­mony” con­cerns.

Po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents and Malaysia’s ac­tive so­cial-me­dia scene ac­cused Na­jib of en­gi­neer­ing the can­cel­la­tion to avoid fac­ing his main ac­cuser in public.

“He lost an op­por­tu­nity to win over sup­port for him­self, to ex­plain ev­ery­thing ... that no money is miss­ing,” Ma­hathir was quoted say­ing by The Malaysian In­sider news por­tal.

Na­jib launched the com­pany, 1Malaysia Devel­op­ment Bhd (1MDB), in 2009 and, as con­cur­rent fi­nance min­is­ter, is re­spon­si­ble for its op­er­a­tions.

But it is reel­ing un­der an es­ti­mated US$11 bil­lion debt, which has weighed on the ring­git cur­rency and sparked fears for the coun­try’s sovereign credit rat­ing.

Re­ports this year also have al­leged that pos­si­bly bil­lions of U.S. dol­lars have gone miss­ing through mis­man­age­ment and murky over­seas trans­ac­tions.

Na­jib and 1MDB have de­nied wrong­do­ing, say­ing the com­pany is on solid foot­ing.

But both op­po­si­tion and rul­ing party crit­ics have ac­cused 1MDB of pro­vid­ing in­com­plete and shift­ing ex­pla­na­tions.

Na­jib’s of­fice blamed his noshow on the se­cu­rity warn­ing from his na­tional po­lice chief.

But crit­ics mocked that, not­ing that the event was held at Na­jib’s own rul­ing-party head­quar­ters.

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