Malaysian media report PM to drop deputy after 1MDB criticism

Reuters , Tuesday 28 Jul 2015

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak July 8, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)

Malaysian media reported on Tuesday that Prime Minister Najib Razak has dumped his deputy and four others in a cabinet reshuffle, with the attorney general also replaced amid the fallout from a graft scandal at state investment fund 1MDB.

Najib's government announced in a statement that Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail, the man who had led investigations into the 1MDB scandal, had been replaced by Mohamed Apandi Ali. It gave no reason for the change.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Malaysian Insider news portal reported that Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin would be among those sacked from the cabinet, a day after Najib told Muhyiddin and others to avoid commenting on the 1MDB scandal.

The fund has debts of more than $11 billion and is being investigated for financial mismanagement and graft. The firm's advisory board is chaired by Najib, who is facing his toughest challenge since taking office in 2009.

Utusan Malaysia Online, a mouthpiece for the powerful United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party, reported that Najib had met Malaysia's king, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam, to present his new cabinet.

Reuters was unable to verify the reports and a spokesman for the prime minister's office declined to comment.

According to media reports at the weekend, Muhyiddin had warned that Barisan Nasional, the ruling coalition of which UMNO is the major party, would lose power if it did not do better at explaining the 1MDB scandal to the public.

UMNO, which represents the majority ethnic Malay community, has led Malaysia's coalition governments since independence in 1957. Najib's office has also warned of the political damage the divisive scandal could cause.

Other media reports on Tuesday said deputy UMNO president Shafie Apdal, who is also the rural and regional development minister, was among those to be dropped from cabinet, along with senior ministers G. Palanivel and Idris Jala.

Najib's office said he would hold a media conference later on Tuesday.

The prime minister has tried to consolidate support among UMNO's core leaders. He told Muhyiddin and others on Monday to stop commenting on the 1MDB graft scandal, saying arguments among leaders would erode support for the government.

Patail was the head of a task force, which included the central bank, police and Malaysia's anti-corruption commission, that had conducted raids and arrests as it investigated the heavy losses at 1MDB.

His replacement as attorney general, Apandi, is a former federal court judge with strong UMNO ties.

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