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    Mar 01, 2016

    Mahathir quits Umno, claims 'Najib's party' backs corruption


    MALAYSIA'S former premier Mahathir Mohamad announced yesterday he has quit the ruling United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party, which he said is seen as "supporting corruption" under Prime Minister Najib Razak's leadership, local media reported.

    The country's longest-serving prime minister, who remains a highly respected figure after retiring in 2003 following 22 years in office, became one of the fiercest critics of Mr Najib more than a year ago.

    Mr Najib is facing pressure over alleged graft scandals surrounding the debt-ridden state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and the RM2.6 billion (S$868 million) found in his personal bank accounts.

    "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," Dr Mahathir told a press conference in his Putrajaya office.

    "Umno is no longer performing the task it set for itself way back in 1946," the Malaysian Insider news website quoted him as saying.

    He also accused Mr Najib of mismanaging the economy, as Malaysia is going through "a very bad period" with the devaluation of the ringgit and declining foreign investments, reported the Astro Awani broadcaster.

    Dr Mahathir also denied that his resignation was prompted by the recent ouster of his son Mukhriz Mahathir as the chief minister of Kedah by Mr Najib, saying he had never practised nepotism, reported the Sinar Harian newspaper.

    Dr Mahathir indicated he would not set up a new party or join any other party but he would form a core group to work for the overthrow of Mr Najib.

    This is the second time Dr Mahathir has quit Umno. The first time was in May 2008, over unhappiness with Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the then-prime minister who had led the Barisan Nasional coalition to dismal results in the general election that year.

    Dr Mahathir has stepped up his criticism of Mr Najib after 1MDB, whose top adviser is the Prime Minister, ran up huge debts.

    The criticism grew fiercer after the United States-based Wall Street Journal reported last July on the mysterious RM2.6 billion, which Mr Najib claims was a donation from Saudi Arabia.

    Dr Mahathir had also hit out at Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali for not pressing charges against Mr Najib when anti-corruption authorities submitted investigation findings about the alleged donation and a Finance Ministry-owned firm, SRC International.

    SRC has been found to have transferred money into Mr Najib's bank accounts.

    Dr Mahathir, who said last week he would be attending an anti-Najib gathering on March 27, is currently under police investigation for alleged slander against Mr Apandi.