Asia - Pacific

Malaysia ex-deputy PM rejects opposition leader post

Says Wan Azizah Wan Ismail - president of National Justice Party and wife of imprisoned Anwar Ibrahim - will remain leader

30.07.2016
Malaysia ex-deputy PM rejects opposition leader post Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, President of National Justice Party and wife of imprisoned Anwar Ibrahim

By P Prem Kumar

KUALA LUMPUR

Malaysia's former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has rejected a suggestion he will soon be named as the country's parliamentary opposition leader, with his emergence as a government opponent sparking speculation he could take over.

Yassin, who was sacked by Prime Minister Najib Razak last year for publicly criticizing him, said Wan Azizah Wan Ismail -- the president of National Justice Party and wife of imprisoned Anwar Ibrahim -- would remain as leader of the opposition.

"She is the opposition leader. There is no doubts on that," Yassin told a packed press conference Saturday, pointing to Ismail, who sat next to him, followed by other leaders of her National Justice Party.

Earlier this month, former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad confirmed that he would be a founding member of a new political party that will ally with Hope Pact -- the country's major opposition coalition -- to ensure a straight fight against the National Alliance ruling coalition in the 14th general wlection, which is due in 2018.

Yassin is widely expected to lead the yet-to-be unnamed party, while Mohamad's son Mukhriz Mahathir is the presumed deputy president.

Mohamad has declared he will remain as an advisor to the vehicle.

Yassin also said Saturday that he would go on a nationwide roadshow with opposition parties to explain issues behind embattled state wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) to the masses.

Since Razak was accused -- and then cleared -- of siphoning money from 1MDB, a United States civil suit has claimed more than $3.5 billion in 1MDB funds were allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials of the local state investment firm and their associates between 2009 and 2015.

Yassin said Saturday that the roadshow would focus on simplifying the issue so those in rural areas could understand the gravity of the scandal.

"In today’s situation, if we do not spread the information to regular people, of their power to determine the future, and just allow this issue to carry on, then our worry is that the country will be ruined," he said.

"I think if the 1MDB issue is not given a proper explanation in simpler language, then the people will never know the impact it has on the country."

1MDB -- a brainchild of Razak -- was established in 2009 to undertake key development projects in capital Kuala Lumpur and spur economic growth of Malaysia.

Since then, the fund has been hit by controversies revolving around the 50 billion Ringgit ($12.7 billion) in debt it has incurred since inception.

The civil suit by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seeks the forfeiture and recovery of more than $1 billion in assets based in the U.S., linked to what was described by the DOJ as an "international conspiracy to launder funds misappropriated" from 1MDB.

In a press statement a fortnight ago, the DOJ described the case as the largest case ever brought by the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

It found that more than $3.5 billion in 1MDB funds were allegedly misappropriated by high-level officials of the local state investment firm and their associates between 2009 and 2015.

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