Malaysia: Najib Razak quits UMNO party after travel ban

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Malaysian ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak has resigned as president of his UMNO party, and as chairman of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which ruled Malaysia for 60 years, with immediate effect, shortly after he was issued a travel ban.

“We all feel sad about what happened, but as a party that upholds democratic principles, we accept the people’s decision,” he said, referring to the stunning defeat of the long-ruling alliance in Wednesday’s general election.

Najib said his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also the former deputy prime minister, would take over as the new president of the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), the main party in the Barisan Nasional alliance.

The resignation came after Najib was barred from leaving the country on Saturday amid reports that the government was reopening investigations into a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at a state fund he founded.

Malaysia’s Immigration Department announced the travel ban moments after the scandal-plagued Najib said in a Facebook post that he and his family were taking a post-election holiday overseas starting from Saturday and would return next week.

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Najib on his Twitter account said he would respect the travel ban.

“I have been informed that the Immigration Department does not allow me and my family to go abroad. I respect the direction and will remain with the family in the country,” Najib wrote.

Incoming Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he prevented Najib from travelling to “avoid problems with extradition”.

‘No witch-hunt’

Mahathir, who is now the world’s oldest elected leader at 92, has said his government will not go on a witch-hunt over the 1MDB fiasco but that Najib would have to face the court if he’s found responsible.

The fund was started by Najib when he took power in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts and is being investigated in the US and several other countries.

US investigators said Najib’s associates stole $4.5bn from the fund, of which some $700m landed in Najib’s bank account, and some $30m was used to buy jewellery for his wife.





Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor said they wanted to go on holiday for a post-election break on Saturday [File: Stephen Morrison/Reuters]

Najib denies any wrongdoing.

He sacked critics in his government, including an attorney general and a deputy prime minister, and muzzled the media.

The new Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared Najib in 2016, saying the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family and that most of it was returned.

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Mahathir has indicated that Mohamed Apandi would be fired for hiding evidence of wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, the incoming prime minister named Lim Guan Eng, a former banker and qualified chartered accountant, as Malaysia’s new finance minister.

Mahathir also named former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin as the home or interior minister and Mohamad Sabu, a long-time opposition politician, as the defence minister.

Former central bank governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz and billionaire tycoon Robert Kuok were among those named to a special team that will advise the government on economic and financial matters for the next 100 days.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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