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Malaysian justices, poll chief quit as new government cleans house

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By Agence France-Presse

Malaysia’s top two judges and its election chief are resigning, officials said Wednesday, the latest senior public servants to leave their posts since the former government lost power.

Chief Justice Raus Sharif and appeals court president Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin are to step down on July 31, while election chief Mohamad Hashim Abdullah will end his service on July 1, government statements said.

They are the latest senior officials to quit or be forced out of office since Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad won a shock election victory last month on a pledge to clean up a government beset by scandal and other abuses.

The attorney-general and central bank governor have both left their jobs after allegations related to a scandal surrounding sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Ousted former prime minister Najib Razak, his family and cronies were accused of plundering billions of dollars from the fund in a sophisticated fraud.

Najib, who has been questioned by anti-graft investigators twice over the controversy since losing power, and 1MDB deny any wrongdoing.

A judiciary statement said the judges’ resignations were approved by the king on June 8, as is required by law for such senior legal posts.

The judges had their terms extended last year despite exceeding the legal retirement age of 66 for their posts, in a move that sparked protests from Mahathir — then in opposition — and the legal community.

Critics say the independence of Malaysia’s judiciary has been eroded steadily over the years.

Mahathir, who is 92 and serving as premier for the second time, is himself accused of starting the process of weakening the courts in the 1980s during his first period in office.

Meanwhile, an Election Commission statement said Mohamad Hashim, who became the body’s chairman in January 2016, would see his service period “shortened” to July 1.

Mahathir has previously accused Najib of rigging elections and alleged the commission held back official results as votes were being counted on polling day. (AFP)