KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman has accused former premier Mahathir Mohamad of spreading "lies" and undermining his own country in the international media as part of his personal political vendetta against Prime Minister Najib Razak, local media reported.
The "reckless claims" have affected market sentiment towards Malaysia, said Datuk Seri Anifah, referring to Tun Dr Mahathir's interview with The New York Times (NYT) published on Thursday.
In an open letter to NYT yesterday, Mr Anifah said Dr Mahathir's recent attacks on the state investment agency, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), were "an
excuse to topple" Datuk Seri Najib for not acceding to his demands.
"It is regrettable to see Tun Mahathir seeking to undermine his own country in the international media as part of a personal political vendetta," he said.
"And all because his personal demands, as Tun Mahathir himself has acknowledged, are not being met," he added.
He said Dr Mahathir continued to mount attacks on 1MDB despite ongoing investigations by three separate agencies - Bank Negara, the Auditor-General and Parliament's bipartisan Public Accounts Committee - on the state investment fund's alleged financial and management irregularities.
This showed the former premier "is not interested in answers from the appropriate lawful authorities", Mr Anifah said.
"For Tun Mahathir to accuse Prime Minister Najib of acts 'verging on criminal' is simply outrageous and entirely false.
"It is a measure of the reforms put in place under Prime Minister Najib's administration that Tun Mahathir has the freedom to be so vocally critical of the party and government he once led."
Referring to Dr Mahathir's claim that the ruling Umno party "lacks vision and talented people", Mr Anifah said the fault lay with the 89-year-old, who was prime minister for 22 years.
"It was he that, during his time, worked to cultivate 'yes men' and entrench his position - even introducing a quota system for the Umno presidency to prevent challengers - rather than bringing in talent and strengthening the party," he said.
In contrast, it was Mr Najib who is seeking to dismantle that system with his democratisation of the party Constitution to allow for challengers to the Umno presidency today, he added.
"Prime Minister Najib, as Malaysia's democratically elected leader, will do what he thinks is right for the nation, and will not allow rule by proxy," said Mr Anifah.
Speculation has been rife that Dr Mahathir is paving the way for his son and Kedah Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir to transit from governing a state to the federal level, the Malay Mail Online reported yesterday.
"Most Malaysians would rather see Dr Mahathir retire gracefully than continue to damage the standing of his own country for personal political gain," Mr Anifah said in ending his letter.
Dr Mahathir has been Mr Najib's harshest critic, especially on the issue of 1MDB, which has racked up RM42 billion (S$15.1 billion) in debt in just six years.
This is the third time in the combative Dr Mahathir's political career that he has turned on his former proteges.
He sacked his deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim because he could not "accept a man who is a sodomist to become the leader of this country".
His hand-picked successor Abdullah Badawi was forced to step down as prime minister to take responsibility for the poor management of the country and the party's poor election results.