Mahathir investigated for fake news
KUALA LUMPUR — Former Malaysian strongman Mahathir Mohamad, who heads an opposition alliance in next week’s national elections, has brushed off concerns that he is under investigation for spreading false news.
The Kuala Lumpur police said they were investigating Mahathir under a new law banning fake news after complaints over Mahathir’s claim that his chartered plane was sabotaged last week to prevent him from filing his candidacy in the northern resort island of Langkawi.
The 92-year-old Mahathir, who served as Malaysia’s prime minister for 22 years until his retirement in 2003, said late on Wednesday that he wasn’t worried about the police probe.
‘I’m not afraid’
“They can use whatever (law). I’m not afraid of any investigation. I have been investigated many number of times,” he told reporters after a late-night rally in the central state of Pahang.
The law, which was rushed through parliament last month just days before election was called, carries a stiff penalty of up to six years in jail and a fine of about $128,000.
Critics say it is aimed at silencing dissent ahead of the May 9 general election. On Monday, a Danish citizen became the first person to be convicted under the law for making false claims over the killing of a Hamas militant on a video he posted on YouTube.
Mahathir had said he believed there was a “deliberate attempt” to stop him from going to Langkawi last Friday after the pilot found some damage to the jet just before departure.
He said he tried to look for other planes but was rejected by three people, including one who claimed he was under pressure. Mahathir eventually found a plane and made it to the island to register on Saturday for the polls.
“We are dealing with a government party which is known to use all kinds of tricks in order to win the election. And one of the tricks, of course, is to stop me from being nominated, and especially me, because I happened to be the leader of the opposition,” he wrote on his blog.
“So I maintain my belief that the plane was deliberately tampered with to stop me from going to Langkawi,” he added.
‘Politics of lying’
The Civil Aviation Authority said its investigation found no evidence of sabotage, and the private plane company said it was a technical issue related to the front wheel.
Prime Minister Najib Razak slammed Mahathir for making irresponsible allegations and urged him to stop his “politics of lying.”
“We have opened an investigation (of Mahathir) under the fake news law,” the capital’s police chief, Mazlan Lazim, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“We will conduct the normal process of investigation,” he added.
Local media reported that the police complaint was lodged by a group that supported Najib’s party, the United Malays National Organization, which said Mahathir’s claims of sabotage had caused anxiety among Malaysians.
Mahathir made a political comeback amid anger over a massive corruption scandal involving the 1MDB state fund that was set up by Najib, his former protégé.
The fund accumulated billions in debts and is being investigated for money laundering in the United States and other countries.
Najib is battling allegations that billions of dollars were looted from the fund in a campaign of fraud and money laundering. He and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.
Mahathir has galvanized a fractured opposition and became their prime minister candidate in the strongest bid to oust Najib and his long-ruling coalition.
Najib’s Barisan Nasional coalition has led Malaysia for 61 years, since independence from Britain, and is expected to win at the poll. —REPORTS FROM AFP AND AP
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