Former two-time Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has called the country a kleptocracy run by "dirty politicians", even as he warned that his predecessor Najib Razak could get a full pardon for his crimes and possibly return to the top job.
In a Facebook post on Thursday (21 July), Dr Mahathir, 97, wrote, "We are a kleptocracy, a country of thieves led by thieves. Come General Election 15 we will vote for them because we get a little of their stolen money."
He added that for Najib, "events seem to indicate that a full pardon is possible. This will enable Najib to contest in elections and to become prime minister again. Malaysians can then kiss his hand more ardently.
"The world will laugh. But Malaysians don’t mind. Najib has made Malays shameless. Stealing is okay, especially if you are the boss."
In 2020, Najib, 68, was found guilty by the High Court of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust in relation to the misappropriation of RM42 million from SRC International, a former subsidiary of 1MDB.
He was sentenced to a total of 12 years' jail and a fine of RM210 million. Last year, the Court of Appeal upheld both conviction and sentence, but Najib remains on bail pending a final appeal to the Federal Court.
Earlier this year, Dr Mahathir said he was ashamed of having to constantly bring up his predecessor to ensure the latter does not return to power. "I will continue to denigrate Najib or anyone who tries to damage the country and deceive the people," he said.
Dr Mahathir had also hit out at Najib on Wednesday, saying his "corruption of the government" is to blame for the country lagging behind her neighbours. Among other things, the elder statesman said Najib "stole billions of ringgit which affected the development of Malaysia".
Not all politicians corrupt
In his Facebook post on Thursday, Dr Mahathir also struck a note of optimism. He said not all politicians are corrupt and, along with some non-governmental organisations (NGOs), they want Malaysia to be a great country.
"Unfortunately NGOs are not political parties. They hope to persuade the politicians to reject corruption. The dirty politicians who now rule Malaysia will ignore them," he said.
"The best way for NGOs to achieve their struggle to clean the government is for them and their followers to vote for clean politicians who are not in power now but who wish for Malaysia to recover as an Asian Tiger. Alternatively they can stand for elections as candidates of clean parties without joining the parties," he added.
Dr Mahathir said NGOs could replicate the same strategy used at the last general election, where the larger Parti Keadilan Rakyat lent its symbol and flag to candidates from Bersatu, Amanah and the Democratic Action Party in order to successfully topple Najib.
"This way the NGOs would be in a better position to carry out their struggle but of course they must get the permission of the party whose symbol and flag they choose to use," he suggested.
Do you have a story tip? Email: email@example.com.