NEW YORK: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has blamed former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak for corruption in the party, which he said “ran very deep”.
“He has undermined the leadership of the party and even the rank and file because he gave them money,” Mahathir said at a meeting with the US Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday.
“So they supported him because some of them felt comfortable with more money.”
Mahathir also predicted that Umno would collapse.
“Umno is fragmented now, it is going to collapse,” he said.
“There is no future for Umno any more because the people detest Umno. That is why they supported the Opposition so strongly (in the 14th general election).”
“He (Najib) made the administrators serve his party, campaign for his party. That’s not what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to take orders from the elected government of course, but not to campaign for the party. That’s not their job.
“And now I have a problem trying to weed out some of these people who are still loyal to him in a way,” Mahathir said.
Speaking at a panel discussion at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum, moderated by Fareed Zakaria of CNN, Mahathir vowed that he will go all out to ensure that the Pakatan Harapan administration is corruption-free.
He said his government and members of the Cabinet must set the best example in the fight against corruption.
“The first thing we need to do, of course, is for leaders not to be corrupt. If leaders are corrupt, then there’s no way we’re going to stop corruption from spreading.
”In any country, there will be corruption to some degree but the idea is to keep corruption to the minimum and that is done by what we call leadership by example.”
The other panelists were Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and CEO of Royal DSM Feike Sijbesma.
Mahathir is here on a five-day working visit, during which he will attend the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly.
He said Malaysians, at this moment, were convinced that the new government had managed to stop the corruption that had characterised the previous government.
The new government was serious in imposing restrictions on Cabinet members by asking them, including him as the prime minister, to declare their personal assets, properties and earnings, which will be scrutinised by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, he said.
“If a leader is not corrupt, then there will be less corruption in the system. So, that is what we are doing now, we are very serious. So, we’re doing everything we can to reduce, or even eliminate, corruption.”
Mahathir also said Malaysia is resorting to “private efforts” to bring back fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, from China, adding Kuala Lumpur has no extradition treaty with China.
“It’s quite tricky for us to accuse China of hiding him, so we’re trying to work out some ways or private efforts to get back Jho Low from China,” said Mahathir, who is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
Jho Low and his father, Tan Sri Low Hock Peng, were charged in absentia in Malaysia last month over money allegedly stolen from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).