Tag Archives: Malaysia

Porsche reveals new plan in Malaysia

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Porsche was making Malaysia its Southeast Asian hub and that incentives for the investment have been approved by the Ministry of Finance.

German sports car maker Porsche AG is setting up an assembly plant in Malaysia under a partnership with trading conglomerate Sime Darby Bhd’s automotive business, The Edge Weekly reported citing sources.

The newspaper reported over the weekend that the luxury car maker will be partnering Inokom Corporation, a subsidiary of Sime Darby Motors, which is Sime Darby’s automotive arm.

Inokom will construct a new plant specifically for Porsche in Kedah, in the north of Peninsular Malaysia. The Edge reported that the value of the investment could not be ascertained.

One of the sources said Porsche was making Malaysia its Southeast Asian hub and that incentives for the investment have been approved by the Ministry of Finance.

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Another source said there have been a number of big investments entering the Malaysian automotive sector which the government has yet to declare.

Reuters has emailed Porsche and the finance ministry for comment.

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#Newsworthy

Anwar Ibrahim affirm majority on his side to form new gov’t. [Malaysia]

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Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said on Wednesday he had secured a “strong majority” from lawmakers to form a new government, seven months after a power grab within the ruling coalition brought down the administration elected in May 2018.

Anwar said he had been “approached by a number of MPs from various parties” who were unhappy with the existing leadership of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Sitting next to his wife, Anwar told a news conference his support from lawmakers “means that the administration of Muhyiddin has fallen” and insisted that his government had the mandate of the people.

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He declined to reveal the numbers backing him, but said he would do so after seeking an audience with the king, who is currently receiving treatment at the national heart hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

Muhyiddin emerged as Malaysia’s prime minister in March after a week of political turmoil when several disgruntled members of the then-ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition joined forces with parties that had lost power in 2018. The move led to the resignation of 95-year-old Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister.

Anwar said Muhyiddin’s government, and its “70 ministers”, had spent too much time “distributing positions, appointments and contracts in order to cling to (an) extremely bare and razor-thin majority.”

Even within the opposition ranks, Anwar’s support does not seem assured. Local media reported that while Amanah, an Islamic party, was backing Anwar, Mahathir’s new party was not.

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Political manoeuvring
Senior politicians in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which returned to power with Muhyiddin, described Anwar’s move as a “gimmick” while former ally turned rival Mohamed Azmin Ali, who led the power grab that ended Pakatan Harapan’s administration and is now Minister of International Trade and Industry, tweeted: “Incorrigible liar and political psychopath.”

Bridget Welsh, an honorary research associate at the University of Nottingham’s Asia Research Institute and an expert on Malaysian politics, said Anwar would need to show the numbers.

“There has been underlying political instability for some time and many of these negotiations have been taking place,” she said. “We are now seeing them come to the fore. There are divisions within Muhyiddin’s government and there are divisions within Anwar’s supporters. This is something that’s very fluid but very real.”

Campaigning currently underway in Malaysia’s Borneo state of Sabah has revealed some of the stresses and strains within the various blocs. Muhyiddin’s coalition is hoping to wrest control of the state government from an administration friendly to the opposition.

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The state has also emerged as a new hotspot for the COVID-19 outbreak in Malaysia, with people confirmed to have the virus told they will not be able to vote.

“The people of Malaysia deserve leadership which can navigate effectively during these turbulent times,” Anwar said in a statement. “Instead we have an unstable government whose inability to handle the crisis is driving the country towards an economic recession and rising racial tension.”

Muhyiddin spoke to the country later on Wednesday, in a pre-scheduled address on state television. He focussed on financial measures to help people cope with the effect of the pandemic, but made no mention of Anwar’s announcement.

The next parliamentary session is not due until November.


#Newsworthy…

1MDB probe: Malaysia drops alleged criminal charges against Goldman

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US bank had agreed to pay Malaysia $3.9bn to settle probe into its alleged role in scandal involving state fund 1MDB.

Malaysian prosecutors have withdrawn criminal charges against three Goldman Sachs units accused of misleading investors over $6.5bn in bond sales they helped organise for a state fund, the Bernama state news agency has reported.

Friday’s move comes after the US banking giant agreed to pay $3.9bn to Malaysia to settle a probe into its alleged role in the scandal involving 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the fund which counts former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak as one of its co-founders.

The United States Department of Justice estimates $4.5bn was misappropriated from 1MDB between 2009 and 2014, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise.

The units – based in London, Hong Kong and Singapore – had pleaded not guilty in February and the bank has consistently denied wrongdoing.

“Goldman Sachs International Ltd, Goldman Sachs (Asia) LLC and Goldman Sachs (Singapore) are therefore discharged amounting to an acquittal from all four charges made against them,” Bernama quoted High Court judge Mohamed Zaini Mazlan as saying.

The United States Department of Justice estimates $4.5bn was misappropriated from Malaysia’s 1MDB between 2009 and 2014, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise in bond sales [File: Olivia Harris/Reuters]

Lawyers for Goldman Sachs and the prosecution could not be immediately reached for comment.

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Suthe part of its deal with Malaysia, Goldman has paid $2.5bn in cash and guaranteed the return of $1.4bn in 1MDB assets seized around the world.

Goldman Sachs had to boost its legal reserves by $2.01bn to account for the Malaysia settlement, shaving its second-quarter net income by 85 percent and wiping out what had been a surprise jump in profit due to trading gains.

Malaysian prosecutors will also cease pursuing the case against Goldman Sachs’s 17 current and former directors, the Bloomberg news agency reported, quoting people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named as the information is private.

The scandal surrounding 1MDB had led to Najib’s removal in 2018 and triggered corruption investigations in at least 10 countries, including Singapore and Switzerland. Najib was found guilty of corruption last month and sentenced to 12 years in prison in the first trial over the scandal to reach a conclusion. Najib has maintained that he is innocent.


#Newsworthy…

Malaysia: Former PM, Najib Razak bags 12-years jail term for IMDB-linked graft case

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Ex-prime minister found guilty of corruption in landmark verdict, but remains free pending the outcome of an appeal.


Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has been sentenced to serve 12 years in jail after a court in Kuala Lumpur found him guilty of corruption in the first of several cases linked to the alleged theft of billions of dollars from the state fund, 1MDB.

Tuesday's ruling makes Najib the first Malaysian leader to be convicted of corruption.

But the 67-year-old remains free as Judge Mohamad Nazlan Ghazali granted a stay order on the execution of Najib’s sentence, pending an appeal.

“Surely, I am not satisfied with the result,” Najib told reporters as he exited Kuala Lumpur’s High Court.

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“But within our system, the high court is the first court and the decision was only made by one judge. We have the benefit of an appeal,” he added, vowing to “continue the effort to clear my name”.

The guilty verdict against Najib relates to his role in diverting an estimated 42 million ringgit ($9.87m) from SRC International, a unit of 1MDB, into his personal bank accounts. The judge had found the former prime minister guilty on all seven charges filed against him.

“I find that the prosecution has successfully proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt. I therefore find the accused guilty and convict the accused on all seven charges,” Mohamad said.

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He then ordered Najib to pay a fine of 210 million ringgit ($49m) and gave him 12 years in jail on one count of abuse of power, 10 years each for three counts of criminal breach of trust and 10 years each for three counts of money laundering.

But the judge also ordered the sentences to run concurrently, meaning Najib will serve 12 years in prison.

The conviction comes just six days after the high court ordered Najib to pay the government as much as 1.69 billion ringgit ($400m) in unpaid taxes and penalties, covering the years from 2011 to 2017.

‘Political vengeance’
Prior to the sentencing, Datuk V Sithambaram, the lead prosecutor in the case, had called for a ruling that serves “as a precedent for all in public office that no one is above the law”.

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Najib then took the dock to defend himself, insisting that he was not aware of the SRC payment into his bank accounts.

“I did not demand the 42 million nor was it offered to me. There is no witness who can say so,” he said.

Prosecutors had argued that Najib played a direct role and gave instructions to deposit the 42 million ringgit into his bank accounts, which was later used for political funding, the purchase of luxury goods and renovations on his property.

But the former prime minister’s lead defence lawyer, Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, said Najib was “not part of the conspiracy” to the defraud the government, laying the blame on party-loving fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low.

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When news of the guilty verdict reached Najib’s supporters gathered outside Kuala Lumpur’s High Court some cried while others shouted, “Long live my boss.” Some also condemned the judge’s verdict as “political vengeance”.

Later when Najib exited the court building, the crowd cheered and chanted his name.

Lim Wei Jiet, a Malaysian constitutional lawyer, called Tuesday’s ruling “historical” because it marked the first time a former leader has been convicted of an offence.

Suspension of sentences pending an appeal was normal, he said.

“It is not over yet. Having said that, it doesn’t mean we can’t stop and appreciate that this is a small step in the rejuvenation of the rule of law in Malaysia. Only two years back, there was a state-sanctioned attempt to silent any form of dissent regarding 1MDB. Today, at the very least, there is some form of vindication for those who dared to stand up against the powers that be, often at great personal risk.”

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The United States Department of Justice alleges $4.5bn in government money had been drained from 1MDB during Najib’s time as prime minister. The scandal at 1MDB fuelled mass protests and led to the downfall of Najib’s government in May 2018.

The former leader has faced three separate trials in relation to 1MDB so far.

The second case against Najib covers several charges, including 21 counts of money laundering involving $550m directly from 1MDB, while the third case, which started on November 18, relates to the alleged abuse of power and cover-up of an audit report at 1MDB.

Two more trials are also pending.

But Najib has remained free on bail despite the charges against him, criticising the policies of his former mentor, Mahathir Mohamad and the coalition that replaced him.

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Mahathir himself was forced to leave the job in March this year, after a group of disgruntled former members of his coalition, backed by Najib’s party, UMNO, pledged their support to the current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak arrives at court on Tuesday morning. A judge found him guilty on all seven counts [Ted Regencia/Al Jazeera]

1MDB: Najib Razak faces verdict


Judge to give decision in first case relating to failed state fund in decision that could have a major political impact.


After nearly 16 months, dozens of witnesses and thousands of pages of evidence, a Malaysian judge will on Tuesday deliver his verdict on whether former Prime Minister Najib Razak is guilty of corruption in the first of a series of trials related to the alleged theft of billions of dollars from state fund 1MDB, in a decision that could have major political ramifications.

Najib faces seven charges in relation to SRC International, a unit of 1MDB, and allegations that millions of dollars ended up in his personal bank accounts and were used to shop at luxury stores, pay for home renovation projects and provide funding for the component parties of his then-ruling coalition.

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If found guilty, he could face decades in prison and substantial fines. He would also become the first Malaysian prime minister to be convicted in a criminal court.

“It’s a test for Muhyiddin’s [the current prime minister’s] government,” said Bridget Welsh, an expert on Malaysia and honorary research fellow with the University of Nottingham’s Asia Research Institute Malaysia. “It will also send a very important signal about whether leaders will be held to account for what they do while in office, as well as the penalties for elites abusing the system.”

Najib might be facing more than 40 charges in relation to 1MDB and spending most of his days in court, but he remains an influential figure in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which was ousted in May 2018 amid popular anger about 1MDB, but is once again the biggest party in the coalition after Muhyiddin Yassin – the deputy Najib sacked over 1MDB – emerged as prime minister in March.

UMNO leaders were seen at court and hundreds of people turned out to show their support despite coronavirus restrictions, as Judge Mohd Nazlan Ghazali, who began his legal career at the Securities Commission and Malaysia’s biggest bank, began delivering his verdict at 10.20am (02:20 GMT).

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‘Near-absolute power’
When the trial got under way on April 3 last year, then-Attorney General Tommy Thomas told the court that Najib, who sat on the dock’s wooden bench leaning against a plump cushion provided by an aide, had wielded “near-absolute power” as prime minister; a time when he was also finance minister.

The "highest trust" had been placed in Najib by the Malaysian people, Thomas noted.

The prosecution called scores of witnesses to buttress its case, including anti-corruption investigators, former Second Minister of Finance Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah and senior bankers at AmBank where Najib kept his personal accounts.

The defence, meanwhile, sought to show that Najib was not aware of the source of the funds and was misled by Penang-born financier Jho Low, a man notorious for blowing thousands of dollars on bottles of champagne and partying with celebrities and socialites. He is now a fugitive, and has denied wrongdoing.

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Investigators in the United States have said $4.5bn was siphoned from 1MDB – where Najib chaired the board of advisers – through a complex web of shell companies before it was used to buy the trappings of the uber-rich, including luxury homes, an ocean-going yacht, and art by Picasso.

Najib himself took the witness stand in December, reading from a prepared statement that was nearly 250 pages long.

His defence team said they were convinced they have done enough.

“We are very confident in the defence and the outcome as well,” Muhammad Farhan Shafee, one of Najib’s team of lawyers, told Al Jazeera. “Enough doubt has been aroused during the proceedings, and that’s the burden of proof we have to meet.”

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Optimism
Najib, who turned 67 last week, has oozed confidence throughout, and the change in government has reinvigorated his political profile.

Earlier this month, he joined campaigning for a state assembly seat in his east coast constituency, and last week got special permission from the court – initially denied – to attend Parliament to deliver a speech.

On social media, the former prime minister continues to pepper lighter fare on family – his cat Kiky makes regular appearances – with his views on political developments. Last week, he posted a video of himself surrounded by dozens of staff singing happy birthday to the man they dubbed “bossku” a reference to the online persona he crafted in the run-up to the trial.

On Tuesday night, in a Facebook posting ahead of the verdict he thanked people for their support, took potshots at the government that ousted him, and said he would appeal if found guilty,

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“I want justice,” he wrote. “I want to clear my name.”

Some cases related to 1MDB have been settled without jail time being served.

Last week, Malaysia reached a $3.9bn deal with US investment bank Goldman Sachs to drop criminal charges over its role in the scandal, and in June withdrew money-laundering charges against Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, who had been accused of using money diverted from 1MDB to fund the blockbuster movie the Wolf of Wall Street.

The film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese, was banned in Malaysia.

Riza’s production house had already paid a fine to the Department of Justice in the US, while the settlement with Malaysia came to just over $107m.

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Away from 1MDB, other politicians forced to answer corruption allegations after the 2018 election have also had their cases dropped or settled, including the former chief minister of the Borneo state of Sabah.

“Since the change of government, there have been a number of rulings in favour of those who were prosecuted,” said Ross Tapsell, senior lecturer at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific. “The trend seems to be towards softer rulings.”

The SRC decision is being handed down five years to the day that Najib fired Muhyiddin and four other ministers as the revelations about 1MDB snowballed. Muhyiddin was sacked as deputy prime minister and home minister while then-Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, as well as the head of the Special Branch, were also removed from their positions.

Later, Muhyiddin joined forces with the opposition, which had united in a bid to remove Najib. In the 2018 polls, he campaigned alongside veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad and the Pakatan Harapan coalition, to call for a full investigation into 1MDB and an end to corruption.

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“It would look very bad for the Muhyiddin government if Najib was let off, especially as Muhyiddin himself was sacked and campaigned on these corruption cases,” Tapsell said.

Divisions
Muhyiddin became prime minister in March, aligning himself with UMNO and the Islamic party PAS to form a conservative, Malay-nationalist administration, after the king was convinced that he had a majority in Parliament.

Still, while he was won plaudits for his effective control of the coronavirus pandemic in Malaysia, his coalition’s majority is wafer-thin.

Parliament did not sit until earlier this month – bar a single ceremonial day for the official opening – and a vote to remove the speaker who had taken on the job under the previous administration was secured by only two votes. Rumours of a snap election are rife.

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“For Muhyiddin, a conviction would take away his absolutely most daunting rival – and would spare him from having to cooperate with a coalition-mate he has ripped apart previously,” said Meredith Weiss, professor of political science at the University at Albany. “At least as important, a conviction (especially one worded clearly enough to increase the odds of its holding up on appeal) would certify his government as opposing corruption.”

UMNO too has its problems, which could undermine the ruling coalition's position.

A number of senior politicians, including leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, are on trial for corruption. If any of them are found guilty, and the decision is upheld on appeal, they will lose their seats in Parliament.

Najib himself was also ordered last week by a Kuala Lumpur court to pay a staggering 1.69 billion ringgit ($397.4m) in unpaid taxes for the period from 2011 to 2017.

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When Najib was first charged over SRC, Thomas noted the case was one of the most straightforward involving 1MDB; a case that spans at least six countries and involves a complex money trail through numerous shell companies and far-flung tax havens.

There was "overwhelming evidence" against Najib, he said.

Many Malaysians, emboldened by the May election result – the first time UMNO had been defeated since independence – were eager for a conviction, but there were also die-hard supporters who refused to believe that the scion of one of the country’s most influential political families could be guilty of such a crime.

Najib's supporters plan to gather outside the court on Tuesday.

“For many Malaysians, it would be nice if Najib Razak was convicted,” said Oh Ei Sun, a political analyst who once worked in Najib’s office. “People are worried about the economy and wider government policies. A conviction would be an antidote to what progressives see as the regression of the country.”


#Newsworthy…

Malaysian Coast: 24 Rohingya migrant feared ‘drowned’

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A Rohingya migrant is feared to be the only survivor from a boat carrying at least two dozen asylum seekers that are believed to have run into difficulty off the Malaysian coast near Thailand, a coastguard official said Sunday.

Mohamad Zawawi Abdullah, coastguard chief for the northern states of Kedah and Perlis, said the 27-year-old named Nor Hossain was detained by police after he swam to shore on the resort island of Langkawi.

“Based on the information from the police, the illegal Rohingya migrant had jumped off the boat that had 24 other people and that he was the only one who managed to swim to the shore safely,” Zawawi said.

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A search and rescue operation had been launched, but another official told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) that no bodies or survivors have been found.

It is not clear what happened to the boat.

Muslim-majority Malaysia is a favoured destination for Rohingya, who face persecution in their mostly Buddhist homeland of Myanmar, but authorities have in recent months been trying to stop them entering over coronavirus fears.

Many of the 700,000-plus Rohingya Muslims who fled a military crackdown in Myanmar three years ago have attempted to leave overcrowded refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district on boats headed for Malaysia and neighbouring Indonesia.

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Zawawi said two coastguard aircraft and two boats have been deployed to search the suspected area.

Malaysia has stepped up maritime patrols since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic in a bid to stop Rohingya boats from landing.

Although some have made it ashore many boats have been turned back, sparking anger from rights groups.


#Newsworthy…

Stranded Nigerians evacuated from Malaysia, Thailand

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An Air Peace aircraft is in the process of evacuating stranded Nigerians in Malaysia and Thailand, the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has said.

The Commission revealed this in a tweet on Saturday.

“Chartered @airpeace flight APK-7813 conveying Stranded Nigerians from Malaysia and Thailand departing Kaula Lumpur to Abuja and Lagos today with Evacuees from Malaysia and Thailand onboard,” the tweet said.

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This is the first evacuation from both countries since the coronavirus pandemic instigated lockdowns across the world, according to NIDCOM.

A combination of photos showing Nigerians leaving Malaysia provided by the Nigerians In Diaspora Commission on July 11, 2020.

The flight is expected to depart at 7am and first arrive at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, before proceeding to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos.

According to NIDCOM, all evacuees have tested negative to COVID-19 and will proceed on a 14-day self-isolation on arrival.

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Thousands of Nigerians have been evacuated back home from across the world since the pandemic disrupted world travel.

In early June, the federal government said it has spent N169 million on the evacuation of Nigerians returning from overseas.

Since then, hundreds more have been returned to the country.

On July 4, at least 109 Nigerians stranded in India were welcomed back into the country.


#Newsworthy…

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Just In: Malaysian Prime Minister Drop Rank


Mahathir Mohamad on Monday resigned as Malaysia’s prime minister and his Bersatu party has quit the governing Alliance of Hope coalition.

Mahathir’s move comes after a weekend of drama, with parties from both government and coalition meeting all day Sunday and Anwar Ibrahim, the designated successor to Mahathir, alleging “betrayal” by allies.

Anwar and Mahathir met on Monday, shortly before Mahathir, at 94 the world’s oldest Prime Minister, announced he would quit.


Mahathir previously said he wanted to remain as leader until after Malaysia hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November.

Eleven members of Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, which was part of the Mahathir-led coalition, announced also that they are forming a new independent grouping under Azmin Ali, Malaysia’s economic affairs minister.


Ali was among the former Anwar allies seen at meetings on Sunday that spurred speculation that the government was about to fall and that members of the coalition were aiming to oust Anwar and his allies.

It is not clear whether Mahathir or Bersatu can yet form another government.


Muhyiddin Yassin, president of Mahathir’s Bersatu party, said in a statement that he and the party lawmakers “continue to support and trust” Mahathir as prime minister.

Among the parties seen at meeting Sunday with Mahathir allies was the opposition United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which Mahathir led during his first 1981-2003 tenure as prime minister.


Anwar and Mahathir have a long and fractious history, going back to the early 1990’s when Anwar, a former finance minister and deputy prime minister, was seen Mahathir’s as likely successor.

But after a spectacular falling-out, Anwar was jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption.

The two men only reconciled in the run-up to Malaysia’s 2018 parliamentary elections, when Mahathir led the opposition alliance to a shock election win over his former UMNO allies, the first change of government in Malaysian history.

In what could presage the announcement of a new government, Mahathir will meet Malaysia’s King at 5 p.m. (0900 GMT) on Monday.


#Newsworthy…