Mahathir dares Najib to attend town hall meeting on 1MDB

PUTRAJAYA - Malaysia's former leader Mahathir Mohamad urged Prime Minister Najib Razak on Tuesday (July 18) to attend a town hall meeting focusing on a massive financial scandal, heaping fresh pressure on the scandal-hit premier.

The saga surrounding the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state investment fund has rocked Datuk Seri Najib's government, with claims the Prime Minister took part in the alleged looting of huge sums from the fund.

Tun Dr Mahathir, 92, has come out of retirement from politics, formed his own party and joined forces with his old foe Anwar Ibrahim in an opposition alliance that aims to unseat Mr Najib at elections due by 2018.

He has excoriated Mr Najib over 1MDB, saying that Malaysia is "controlled by thieves". Mr Najib and 1MDB have denied any wrongdoing.

Dr Mahathir, who led Malaysia for over two decades and was himself responsible for subduing opposition parties, said that he planned to hold a town hall meeting focusing on the 1MDB saga on Aug 13 near Kuala Lumpur, and urged Mr Najib to attend.

"The session will explain to the masses about the 1MDB scandal," he told a press conference. "This will be a good platform to tell the truth - Najib should attend and explain the allegations."

There was no immediate response from Mr Najib's spokesman about Dr Mahathir's challenge to attend the meeting.

Malaysia must hold a general election by mid-2018, but Mr Najib has signalled he may call it earlier.

His party, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) , dominates the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been in power since independence in 1957.

Mr Najib's grip on power is said to be strong as he is backed by most of Umno's powerful division chiefs.

Dr Mahathir's party has joined the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope. The coalition last week announced a new leadership line-up, with Anwar as overall leader, Dr Mahathir as chairman, and Anwar's wife as president.

Anwar was heir apparent to the Umno leadership until the late 1990s, when he was ousted in a battle for power with Dr Mahathir.

The opposition coalition has not revealed their prime ministerial candidate. Asked on Tuesday whether he would accept Anwar as premier if the opposition won, Dr Mahathir said: "If that is what the people want, why not?"