COMMENT| In an article published by Malaysiakini on Oct 30, 2017 titled “Najib launches into lengthy broadside against Dr M at dinner event”, the prime minister made remarks which most believe were directed at me. I am reproducing (excerpts of) Malaysiakini's article below and my responses.

(Malaysiakini) - He did this in a keynote address, titled 'Governance in a Developing Democracy', at a dinner organised by the United Nations Association Malaysia (UNAM) in Kuala Lumpur. The prime minister in his speech lamented what he termed to be the “epidemic of fake news”.

Dr M: What fake news! If they are fake, prove that the Department of Justice, America's report about purchases of residence in UK and US, Wolf of Wall Street film, purchases of paintings, (and) pink diamonds did not happen, that US$3.5 billion of Riza (Aziz’s) money came from his family, that 1MDB money did not pass through Singapore banks as reported by officials, that US$681 million was not in his account at AmBank, that Jho Low is not the recipient of 1MDB money. Don't just deny. Don't ignore. Give proof. All money transactions are documented. Show us the documents on all the transactions involving 1MDB money. Sue the Department of Justice of America, the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Let Jho Low answer questions by American authorities.

(Malaysiakini) - Najib said: “From time to time, some Western media outlets have been featuring interviews with one of our former leaders and presenting his allegations about the country as facts. “They are not. This former leader has been on a nearly three-year mission to illegitimately topple the democratically elected government of Malaysia in between election cycles.”

Dr M: What is illegitimate about toppling a democratically elected government? It happens in Brazil, in South Korea and in many democratic countries in the past, between elections. The evidence against the overthrown leaders were not even clear. Already they were overthrown. Here the evidence is overwhelming – but hidden by the attorney-general. If the AG charges him in court, he would be overthrown today.

(Malaysiakini) - This former leader, Najib added, has tried “every method at his disposal and failed each time”.

Dr M: The attempts failed because there is no rule of law in Malaysia. Reports against Najib result in arrest and jailing of the man reporting. Reports by institutions are made official secrets. Judgement is passed by the AG, not a court of law. Have a proper hearing and I will accept the verdict. If guilty, step down.

(Malaysiakini) - As a result, Najib said, the leader was making himself available to any media organisation that was willing to listen so that he could “spread fake news and tell lies about his country for selfish political gains”.

Dr M: The print and electronic media in Malaysia are controlled by the government. Even Parliament cannot discuss 1MDB and the RM2.6 billion in Najib's accounts. Umno general assembly was instructed to be silent on these. Am I supposed to censor myself when asked by foreigners. I have been talking to foreigners throughout my life. Prove that what I say is fake. Let's have “Nothing to hide 3”.

(Malaysiakini) - Najib said: “He seems to think that if he tells a lie often enough, people will begin to believe it is true. And unfortunately, that may be the case as no one would expect a former leader to tell outright untruths.” For instance, Najib cited the former leader’s oft-repeated claim that Malaysia was among the top 10 most corrupt countries in the world. “When challenged to produce evidence for this, he is unable to do so. That is because it is nonsense.”

Dr M: It is the foreign media which repeatedly and extensively published Malaysia as among the 10 most corrupt countries here, here, here, here and here to name a few. During by-elections, money was openly paid to voters, kitchen appliances were given. The 2018 budget is offering money to people prior to an election. I don’t have to repeat my accusations. The people are already repeating them and telling me.

(Malaysiakini) - Citing Transparency International’s latest ranking, Najib pointed out how Malaysia was listed among the top third least corrupt countries, at 55th place out of 176.

Dr M: What about Transparency International (TI) chief Jose Ugaz’s speech on Sept 2, 2015 at the opening of the 16th IACC in Malaysia. Among other things Ugaz said;

“….What does that mean for Malaysia? The government has taken measures and initiatives to tackle corruption. We will surely hear that from the minister. We want to see more progress but that cannot happen while there are unanswered questions about the $700m that made its way into the prime minister's personal bank account. In recent weeks, we have seen the attorney-general who was critical of the government suddenly replaced, the 1MDB taskforce suspended, investigators at the anti-corruption commission arrested or transferred, and newspapers suspended for reporting on the matter. These are not the actions of a government that is fighting corruption. We may well hear promises of reform. That is not what is needed at this time. And promises alone will not restore confidence and trust. There are two questions that need to be answered: Who paid the money and why? Where did it go? One man could answer those questions. If that does not happen, then only a fully independent investigation, free from political interference, can uncover the truth. Until that happens, no claim from the government on anti-corruption will be credible.”

(Malaysiakini) - On the former leader's claim that the country was going bankrupt, Najib refuted this by quoting the World Bank, which stated that the “Malaysian economy is progressing from a position of strength”.

Dr M: The Malaysian government's total debt is almost one trillion ringgit. Show how you are going to pay this. Let independent auditors audit KWSP, Tabung Haji, KWAP, FGV and PNB.

(Malaysiakini) - Najib said: “Another, which is laughable, is that Malaysia is in danger of sliding into dictatorship.”

Dr M: There already is a dictatorship in Malaysia now. There is no rule of law. AG prevents Najib's case from going to court. Opposition figures are hounded and detained. Possible supporters of the opposition are accused by MACC of corruption and money laundering without proof. Ignoring the 2.6 billion in Najib’s account, the MACC is instead accusing, detaining and questioning a former minister on unfounded suspicion of corruption.

(Malaysiakini) - Najib insisted that elections are fiercely fought in the country while the opposition has significant representation in parliament and also controls three states.

Dr M: Elections were free before. Now there is a lot of cheating especially (with) postal votes. In Pekan, Najib’s margin of 250 in 1999 increased to 25,000 in 2004 while the electorate increased from 35,000 to 80,000. There is no way for these increases to happen. Obviously, the additional voters were created out of nothing. Financing of the opposition is actively blocked by Najib. All banks, even private ones are closed to the opposition.

(Malaysiakini) - Najib said: “We have allowed demonstrations against the government in Kuala Lumpur. These are not the markers of a dictatorship. The claim is ridiculous. The irony is that this former leader has admitted that he himself was a dictator when in office. And this is his words, not mine.”

Dr M: If I can call myself a dictator, Najib should call himself a tyrant. I respected the law and I resigned of my own free will. Let's see Najib do the same. Najib abuses the law with the help of the IGP and AG. Or he should consider calling himself a crook. After all, he has attained that acclaim in the Newsweek report during his Trump visit.

(Malaysiakini) - Despite all these, Najib noted that many things have changed since the former leader's time. “We have made it clear that there will be no more crony capitalism. We have invested in the infrastructure and public transport Malaysia needs and in opposition states as well as BN states, unlike his time.”

Dr M: I had no Jho Low or Riza Aziz

(Malaysiakini) - Apart from his veiled attack against Mahathir, Najib in his speech outlined initiatives he had undertaken, which he claimed, were essential to good governance in the country. “Firstly, the concept of 1Malaysia, People First, Performance Now, secondly, the Government Transformation Programme and thirdly, the Economic Transformation Programme.”

Dr M: This concept is great. People are the first to bail out the government through GST. The only performance we see is the corruption of senior government servants, hospitals without medicine, low-cost housing not built, additional taxes based on nothing, and raids to oppress people and deter them from supporting the opposition. Registration of the opposition coalition has not been given. 1Malaysia is about BN first. The only transformation is the new security laws being tightened and more power to the PM to detain people.

(Malaysiakini) - He also cited his brainchild – National Transformation 2050 (TN50) – which he said was launched to further strengthen the country.

Dr M: TN50 is launched. By 2050 the debt will bankrupt the country. The one trillion national debt will increase to three trillion. The ringgit will depreciate further.

(Malaysiakini) - The government's bottom-up approach in TN50, he said, was a clear example of the government practising good governance in response to the changing needs of a young population.

Dr M: Bottom-up means the people must pay GST, endure high cost of living, no scholarships for their children while Najib enjoys the billions stolen from 1MDB, KWAP, KWSP etc.

(Malaysiakini) - “The economic performance I have outlined and the acclaim we have received from international organisations should be conclusive proof of the good governance this government has practised in Malaysia,” Najib said.

Dr M: What acclaim! Is being called a kleptocratic country an acclaim?

DR MAHATHIR MOHAMAD is the former prime minister of Malaysia and current chairperson of Pakatan Harapan. This article was first published on his blog Che Det.

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