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 22 Apr 2009

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Malaysia's ex-PM accuses foreign press of demonising new leader

Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad Tuesday accused the foreign media of "demonising" new leader Najib Razak by raising allegations of corruption and links with a murder, reported AFP.

Najib was sworn in earlier this month after his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was forced to stand down, partly due to relentless criticism from Mahathir, who led the country for two decades until 2003.

Najib has hit out at accusations that he will be a hardline leader and has been forced to deny having an affair with 28-year-old Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was murdered in 2006.

"The Western press launched a concerted effort to demonise the new prime minister. From France to Britain to Australia, the articles are identical and carried the same message," Mahathir said in an entry on his blog.

"The incoming PM is said to be corrupt and involved in a murder case. The Australian writer says Malaysia is a 'pariah' nation. I cannot believe that this demonisation by so many at the same time is a coincidence."

The foreign press was a popular target with Mahathir when he was in power -- an era of hardline rule, including the detention of political opponents, which some commentators say Najib will replicate.

The veteran leader complained that allegations of a return to "Mahathirism" implied he had been "a dictator who detained for no reason, manipulated the judiciary, controlled the press etc".

"As the person concerned I will leave it to Malaysians to judge and to define 'Mahathirism'. They are the constituents which Najib should care about. The foreign press has an agenda of their own," he added.

However, Mahathir said Najib "has to clear his name" with Malaysians over the allegations, which continue to circulate despite the lack of any evidence linking Najib with wrongdoing.

The new premier served as Abdullah's deputy for six years before taking the helm, one year after disastrous general elections in which voters punished Abdullah for failing to implement promised reforms.

Najib has repeatedly denied any involvement in the death of Altantuya Shaariibuu, the lover of his close aide who was acquitted of abetting her murder.

Two police officers have been sentenced to hang for the grisly slaying of the young woman, whose remains were blown up with military-grade explosives in a jungle clearing.




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