KUALA LUMPUR – Scandal-ridden former prime minister Najib Razak and his wife have been blacklisted from leaving Malaysia, shortly after he announced plans for a short holiday, immigration authorities said on Saturday.
Mr Najib, who said earlier that he was only planning a short holiday abroad, responded swiftly by saying he respected the immigration department’s ruling and would stay with his family in the country.
Hours later he announced he was quitting as head of the Barisan Nasional coalition and its main party, the United Malays National Organisation, to take responsibility for their electoral loss, the coalition’s first in 60 years.
“If the party failed in the general election, the leader has the moral obligation to step aside. So based on this principle I have decided to give up both positions,” he said.
A leaked flight manifesto showed Mr Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor were due to leave on a private jet on Saturday to Jakarta, fuelling rumours he was fleeing the country to escape possible prosecution over a massive corruption scandal involving the state investment fund 1MDB.
BN suffered a shocking electoral defeat this week that brought former premier Mahathir Mohamad, 92, back to power. Voter disenchantment over the 1MDB affair was said to have been a big factor.
Mr Najib issued a statement on social media saying he was committed to “facilitating a smooth transfer of power”. He apologised for his mistakes and shortcomings and said he intends to continue serving the people.
“I pray that after this divisive period, the country will unite,” he said.
BN, which had ruled Malaysia since its independence from Britain, obtained only 79 of the 222 parliamentary seats in Wednesday’s general election.
Dr Mahathir has said his government will not go on a witch-hunt over the 1MDB fiasco but that Mr Najib will have to face the court if he’s found to be responsible.
The fund was started by Mr Najib when he took power in 2009, but it accumulated billions in debts and is being investigated in the US and several other countries. US investigators said Mr Najib’s associates stole and looted $4.5 billion from the fund, of which some $700 million landed in Mr Najib’s bank account and some $30 million used to buy jewellery for his wife.
Mr Najib denies any wrongdoing. He sacked critics in his government including an attorney general and a deputy prime minister and muzzled the media. The new attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali cleared Mr Najib in 2016, saying the money was a donation from the Saudi royal family and that most of it was returned.
The Associated Press