By P Prem Kumar
KUALA LUMPUR (AA) - Malaysia's High Court has ordered Prime Minister Najib Razak to enter his defense in a legal suit filed by former premier Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and two others.
The suit -- brought by Mohamad, Khairuddin Abu Hassan and Anina Saadudin last month -- alleges Razak abused his executive powers to influence investigations into a state fund and received political donations to remain in power.
On Thursday, High Court judge Abu Bakar Jais rejected Razak's application to stay the filing, ordering him to comply by June 9.
"The argument by the defendant [Razak] is that they did not allude to facts pertaining to a stay as it concerns a question of law. A question of law only relates to a striking-out application and not a stay," Malaysia's Star Online reported the judge as saying after lengthy submissions by both parties.
Razak was seeking to strike out the lawsuit on the basis that it does not contain the required elements for the tort of misfeasance, and was therefore frivolous and vexatious.
Mohamad, Malaysia's longest serving prime minister, has alleged that Razak interfered in government investigations into state wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and a $681 million political donation found in his personal bank accounts.
The 91-year-old, Razak's mentor turned fiercest critic, had been openly leading a campaign calling for Razak's resignation over alleged financial scandals.
In July 2015, international probes into the debt-ridden investment vehicle claimed that billions of Ringgit were channeled from the 1MDB to personal bank accounts belonging to the premier.
The Wall Street Journal and whistle blower site Sarawak Report released reports quoting documents, which they claimed to be from the ongoing 1MDB probe, claiming 2.67 billion Ringgit ($700 million) moved among 1MDB-linked government agencies, banks and entities before finally ending up in Razak’s personal accounts in five separate deposits.
Razak immediately said that he had not swindled funds for personal gain -- as alleged by political opponents -- be they from 1MDB, the finance ministry's SRC International -- a former 1MDB subsidiary -- or other entities.
A month later, the Attorney-General Chambers ruled that the funds were political donations to the Razak-led UMNO -- The United Malays National Organisation -- for the party to remain in power during the last general election.
Politicians within UMNO proudly declared that the funds came from "Middle East Royals" who wanted UMNO to retain control.
Razak, however, kept silent on the matter, saying political donations were confidential and he would only reveal the donors if opposition parties agreed to follow suit.
On Jan. 26, Malaysia’s Attorney General Apandi Ali, ruled out wrongdoing by Razak in connection with the “political donation".
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, however, told the New York Times last month that he accepted the clearance decision, but expressed doubt about whether the funds were a political donation from Saudi rulers.
“It is a private Saudi citizen, I believe, and the funds went to an investment in Malaysia,” Adel al-Jubeir said in an interview.