Opposition open to Mahathir's proposal to topple Najib

HONG KONG/KUALA LUMPUR - The head of Malaysia's largest opposition party said Friday he is prepared to sit down with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad -- the man who once jailed him - to explore options for squeezing the country's current leader Najib Razak from power.

"We should be willing to discuss because of the dire straits that are happening in Malaysia now," said the chief minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, who is also secretary general of the Democratic Action Party. Malaysia, he said, was embroiled in a political and economic crisis.

Lim, who was speaking in Hong Kong at a talk organised by the Asia Society, a New York-based cultural organisation, was responding to a question about a blog post by Mahathir - a strong critic of Najib - that called on parliamentarians of the ruling alliance to join hands with the opposition to table a no-confidence vote against scandal-plagued Najib.

While Lim said he had "strong reservations" - there remained some doubt as to the real intentions behind the former prime minister's suggestion - Lim said "national interest takes priority." Malaysia is grappling with ongoing political scandals surrounding Najib's involvement with the state-owned investment fund 1Malaysia Development. The prime minister has come under fire over deposits into his bank account of around US$700 million, which investigators discovered from bank remittance forms had come from a "donation" originating in the Middle East.

The controversy has spilled over to the cabinet, with the sacking of ministers critical of Najib's handling of the debacle, including the deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin.

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