'I'm answerable only to the people - not to any one individual', says Malaysian PM Najib

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has come under attack from Dr Mahathir Mohamad of late, went on television last night to confront the entire range of charges that have been hurled at him - from his stance on the controversial 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to his role in the death of a Mongolian interpreter in 2006.

And to the suggestion from former prime minister Mahathir that the ruling party would lose the elections under him, a feisty Datuk Seri Najib said: "The only way Barisan Nasional can lose the 14th general election is if there is internal sabotage... I am confident that the party will not tolerate any acts of betrayal."

In an hour-long, nationally televised interview, Mr Najib not only made it plain that he would not give in to Dr Mahathir's insistence that he step down, but also addressed every single allegation recently levelled at him.

Addressing rumours swirling around the debt-laden 1MDB, Mr Najib, who is chairman of its advisory board, reminded the people that the company has more assets than liabilities and has enough money to pay off all its debts.

Referring to recent allegations that parties close to him had used the state investment company as a front to divert public funds, he said: "I will not condone any abuse of power in 1MDB such as the siphoning of money."

He accused those who continued to repeat the same old allegations about 1MDB as being "irresponsible and putting politics before the interests of the nation".

Turning to the murder of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu, who some say was killed to silence her over alleged kickbacks in a 2002 submarine purchase deal, Mr Najib reiterated that there is no evidence linking him to the case. "No evidence exists at all that I ever knew Altantuya... no pictures, writings, witnesses - there is nothing."

Last week, Dr Mahathir, in a blog post, called for a new probe into the case. Two former police commandos who used to be Mr Najib's bodyguards have been convicted of her murder.

Dr Mahathir, who also pressured his immediate successor Abdullah Badawi to resign as PM in 2009, has intensified a campaign to oust Mr Najib whom he called unfit to lead Umno.

On his harshest critic, Mr Najib said: "I will accept all criticisms from Tun Mahathir, but I wish to state that the reality is that I am responsible to the people and the party."

Mr Najib also addressed criticisms about the latest amendments to the Sedition Act, which even BN MPs called draconian. He said the Act was for the protection of all Malaysians.

"We will not and cannot stand for the incitement of racial or inter-ethnic conflict... And that is why the government decided to keep the Sedition Act and amend it to make it a better and more suitable law."

Mr Najib's rebuttal to his critics came after Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, breaking weeks of silence, urged Dr Mahathir to end his attacks and accept that he would not agree with the Prime Minister on every issue.

shannont@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani