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Australia should speak out against Razak over embezzlement scandal: Mahathir -

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MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Malaysia's longest serving prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, says the Malaysian people should take to the streets to peacefully protest over the multi-million dollar embezzlement scandal engulfing the Government.

In a further blow to the Malaysian administration and its leader Prime Minister Najib Razak the US Justice Department last week moved to seize more than a billion dollars in assets allegedly stolen from the state investment fund known as 1DMB.

The US prosecutor doesn't refer to Najib Razak, but in an interview with the ABC Dr Mahathir says nations like Australia should be naming the leader and speaking out against him.

Correspondent Samantha Hawley reports.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: It's a long time since the former prime minister Paul Keating labelled Mahathir Mohamad a "recalcitrant" for refusing to take part in APEC in 1993.

Now the man who despised interfering foreign nations wants just that.

In a telephone interview with the ABC from Kuala Lumpur Dr Mahathir says nations including Australia and the US should name and shame Prime Minister Najib Razak who he says is behind an extraordinary embezzlement scandal.

MAHATHIR MOHAMAD: I notice that most foreign countries are rather reluctant to come out straight and say that the Prime Minister is the one who is guilty of all of these things.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The US prosecutors don't mention Prime Minister Najib. They do name others close to him including his stepson who's among those accused of buying more than a billion dollars in assets with money stolen from the 1MDB fund, which Prime Minister Najib set up.

According to the US Justice Department they used the government money to buy lavish properties including a penthouse in Manhattan, a mansion in LA, artwork and even a private jet.

Dr Mahathir again:

MAHATHIR MOHAMAD: The fact is that he has a strong stranglehold on the government, so how do we use the laws of the country to remove him?

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: You want a referendum on his leadership. How likely is that?

MAHATHIR MOHAMAD: Well that tool will depend on the government approving the referendum because he will use all the police powers that they have to stop us from doing anything at all.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Why are Malaysians not out on the streets, outraged at this corruption?

MAHATHIR MOHAMAD: Malaysians are very timid people. They are not violent. They don't express themselves openly.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Do you think they should be protesting?

MAHATHIR MOHAMAD: Well they should, but it should be peaceful protest. But they are unwilling to be seen participating even. But if they have a protest then I will be supportive of them.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: There are now six nations investigating the scandal.

Prime Minister Najib maintains his innocence.

This is Samantha Hawley reporting for AM.