Petronas board sacks Mahathir

Petronas and Mahathir Mohamad have parted company. Source: Pixabay

Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been removed from his advisory position at state oil company Petronas as an apparent result of his attempt to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Following a meeting of the Malaysian cabinet a statement was issued saying “the cabinet agreed unanimously to terminate the appointment of Tun Mahatir as an adviser to Petronas”.

Mahathir has held the position since 2003, shortly after he stood down as prime minister. The unanimous decision to remove him will be viewed as evidence of the 90-year-old’s waning influence.

Mahathir’s time at Petronas was controversial. In 2012 it was alleged that he used his position at the firm to pass supply-chain contracts to his son Mukhriz.

The move comes as questions mount over the motives behind his campaign to remove Najib from office, with some commentators claiming threats to his business interests are driving his accusations against the current prime minister.

Mahathir’s network of business associates has lost out under Najib’s policy of diversification and his bid to open Malaysia’s economy. Francis Yeoh, managing director of infrastructure conglomerate YTL, has reportedly seen his hold on the domestic power generation market decline.

The former premier’s new “Citizens’ Declaration” has also faced attacks, as it was revealed that opposition supporters were planning to protest against Mahathir’s involvement with them.

Nine citizens’ groups, who support opposition parties, are planning a protest at the Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall tonight (Saturday).

The Malaysian Outsider website reported: “The gathering is a sign that response to the Dr Mahathir-driven Citizens’ Declaration to oust Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is fractured.”

A spokesman for one of the organisers Badrul Hisham Shahrin said: “Why should we gang up with the likes of Dr Mahathir?”

The hostility towards Mahathir is unsurprising given his record of suppressing political opposition, launching what his biographer called, “the biggest crackdown on political dissent Malaysia had ever seen”.

Mahathir’s motivation in entering this new alliance is further called into question in the context of criticism he has previously levelled at his new alliance partners.

In 2008 he said alliance member Zaid Ibrahim was disloyal to the ruling party, United Malays National Organisation, and the “wrong choice” to be a cabinet minister. In 1987 he had Democratic Action Party parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang arrested under the Internal Security Act. The same legislation was used to arrest alliance member Khairuddin Jaffar in 1998. In 1999 he attacked Mohamad Sabu of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party for allegedly committing adultery. Mahathir said: “What is the point of wearing the [Islamic] cap when you are doing the wrong thing?”