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Najib sacks critics, cuts funding to Mahathir

KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak dismissed two senior party officials and suspended a third on Friday for disparaging his leadership over a financial scandal, and also ordered the withdrawal of state funding for the Perdana Leadership Foundation of former Mahathir Mohamad, the country's longest-serving former prime minister.

Najib's termination of support for the foundation 90-year-old Mahathir uses for his offices comes after the former prime minister resigned in protest from the main ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) in March, and as chairman of Proton Holdings, the national carmaker. Mahathir was sacked as an advisor to Petronas, the state oil company, in March.

The removal of Muhyiddin Yassin as deputy president of UMNO was widely expected after he was sacked as deputy prime minister last July for questioning Najib's involvement in a financial scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib, who is UMNO's president, also fired Mukhriz Mahathir, the former prime minister's youngest son, from the party's decision-making supreme council. Mukhriz had already been removed as chief minister of Kedah, a northern state and his father's birthplace.

"It was a serious offence against party discipline," said Najib in a statement posted on the UMNO website, referring to condemnation of his leadership by the two officials in collusion with opposition figures.

Muhyiddin has called for a thorough probe after allegations surfaced in the Wall Street Journal in July that Najib had pocketed $700 million from companies linked to 1MDB. Malaysian authorities later described the money as a donation from a member of Saudi Arabia's royal family, and said a large portion had been returned.

Along with Mahathir, Muhyiddin joined a fragmented opposition alliance in March to unseat Najib, but to no effect. Friday's sacking will not sit well with the former deputy prime minister's supporters in Johor, his political base, but is unlikely to affect Najib's firm grip on UMNO.

Najib also implied that Mahathir's meddling in Proton's management had contributed to the carmaker's loss of market share. The former prime minister's "era of political interference has come to an end", he said.

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