Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday said he has quit the governing United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, as it is being seen as “supporting corruption” under Prime Minister Najib Razak’s leadership.
Mahathir, Malaysia’s longest serving premier with a 23-year term said he quit the party because it was now "a party dedicated to supporting Najib, protecting Najib and upholding whatever he does, including some of the wrong things he has done."
PM Najib Razak has come under pressure to resign after documents leaked last July showed more than $700 million channeled into his private accounts. The attorney general decided last month not to prosecute Najib, saying most of the money was a personal donation from Saudi Arabia's royal family.
Police announced earlier this month that Mahathir Mohamad was under investigation because of his posts criticizing PM Razak and the attorney general who cleared him of charges over an alleged $680 million political donation.
Mohamad asserted last week that he would rather "die in jail" than stop calling out the “ill administration” of the country’s current leader, after being questioned by police in a defamation probe.
In the past year, Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin has continuously criticized Razak over the discovery of $681 million in his bank accounts later attributed to a political donation, and mass losses at state-owned investment vehicle 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Yassin had been deputy prime minister since 2009, but was dropped in a cabinet reshuffle last July after openly questioning Razak about 1MDB.
The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has opened three investigations into Razak over the funds, and two into the finance ministry's SRC International -- a former subsidiary of debt-ridden 1MDB -- after international media released reports in July quoting documents from a probe into 1MDB – Razak's brainchild – that claimed that $700 million (or 2.67 billion Ringgit) from 1MDB ended up in Razak's accounts.
The premier responded to the allegations by insisting that he had not swindled funds for personal gain, be it from 1MDB, SRC International or other entities.
In August, the Attorney General's Chambers revealed that the funds were not from 1MBD, but political donations to the UMNO for the party to remain in power during the 13th General Election.
UMNO is the major political party in an alliance that has ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.
"I won't call it UMNO anymore, this is Najib's party. I feel embarrassed that I am associated with a party that is seen as supporting corruption - it had caused me to feel ashamed," Mohamad told reporters at a press conference.
He said he would not set up a new party or join any other party.