Embattled Malaysian PM says he won't resign over financial scandal

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Embattled Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak vowed Thursday that he will not retreat nor surrender amid pressure for him to resign over a $700 million financial scandal.

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Najib has been under fire since July after leaked documents showed he received $700 million into his private accounts from entities linked to indebted state investment fund 1MDB. The 1MDB crisis has been partly blamed for a sharp plunge in the Malaysian ringgit, which fell to 17-year lows against the dollar in August.

Opening an annual meeting of his ruling Malay party, Najib reiterated that the money in his accounts was a political donation. He said 1MDB debts of at least 42 billion ringgit ($9.8 billion) were being resolved with the recent sale of its power assets to a China company.

"I am convinced that I am on the side of the truth, and the truth will eventually prevail," Najib told more than 2,000 delegates of his United Malays National Organization.

He said he was aware of efforts to try to remove him and warned that "such treasonous acts" could sink UMNO and destroy the Malay race.

"Even though some may turn against us, even though we are being pushed repeatedly to make us fall, there shall be no retreat, no surrender. No retreat! No surrender!" Najib said.

It is the biggest political crisis for Najib since he took power in 2009. He has denied any wrongdoing but refuses to identify the donor of the money from the Middle East. He has fired his deputy and other critics in his government, sacked the attorney-general probing him, suspended two newspapers and blocked a British-based website.

The hard-line tactics are also employed at the three-day party assembly. Muhyiddin Yassin, who was fired as deputy prime minister in August but remained as the party's deputy president, was barred from speaking at the assembly.

Debates by delegates, which are usually broadcast live on screens in the public hall where the meetings are being held, are now held behind closed doors to prevent misreporting, officials said. Non-Muslim reporters were barred from an event held by the party Wednesday to uphold Islam.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, an ardent critic of Najib, has slammed the repression and said that democracy is dead in the party.

UMNO is the linchpin of the National Front coalition that has ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

Support for the National Front has eroded in the last two general elections. In 2013, it won the polls but lost the popular vote for the first time to the opposition alliance led by Anwar Ibrahim, who is now in prison after being convicted of sodomizing an aide in a case widely regarded as politically motivated.


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