Najib sacks deputy over 1MDB
KUALA LUMPUR — Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak sacked his deputy and four other ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle, and replaced the Attorney-General yesterday, in a bid to shore up his political position, which has been tainted by the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) controversy.
Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin was dropped days after he publicly called on Mr Najib to explain the scandal engulfing 1MDB, which has debts of more than RM42 billion (S$15 billion). The troubled state investment vehicle is also under investigations headed by the A-G and other government agencies over allegations that some US$700 million had been funnelled from 1MDB into the Prime Minister’s personal accounts.
The allegations are the biggest challenge to Mr Najib since he took office in 2009, and could even threaten the grip the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party has kept on Malaysian politics since independence in 1957.
Mr Najib announced the removal of Mr Muhyiddin early yesterday in a live telecast, calling it a “difficult decision” but one he had to make to ensure the Cabinet operated as a collective unit.
“To deliver for Malaysia, I must have a solid and unified team moving in the same direction,” Mr Najib said.
“I welcome vigorous debate, and can accept dissent and criticism. However, this process should take place in Cabinet as part of the decision-making process. Members of the Cabinet should not air their differences in an open forum that can affect public opinion against the government and Malaysia.”
Mr Najib also announced that Mr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will take over as the new deputy prime minister while retaining his current portfolio as home minister, explaining that the reshuffle was done after taking into account political considerations and his administration’s needs to ensure it remained focused on Malaysia’s development.
Mr Muhyiddin’s removal marks only the second time in the history of Malaysian politics that a deputy prime minister was sacked, following Anwar Ibrahim’s fall from grace in 1998.
The promotion of Mr Zahid marks a steady rise up the ranks for the former political secretary to Mr Najib.