Mahathir versus Najib: The charges and the retort

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak went on national television on Thursday night (April 9) to confront a range of charges levelled against him by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Dr Mahathir has in recent weeks stepped up his criticisms of Mr Najib over problems with the economy and debt-laden state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, as well as the 2006 murder of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Here's a look at what the two men say:


1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)

What Dr Mahathir says:

His criticisms include the high fees paid by 1MDB to Goldman Sachs to manage its Islamic bonds, and the fund's level of debt. Goldman Sachs managed 1MDB's RM5 billion Islamic bonds at a 5.75 per cent annual interest rate. The state fund, whose advisory board is chaired by Mr Najib, has debts of nearly 42 billion ringgit (S$15.66 billion).

Dr Mahathir has called for a police investigation into allegations against those linked to the controversial fund, saying that a mere audit "is not enough" to uncover the truth behind the debt-ridden state investment vehicle. He has also questioned the relationship between the prime minister and businessman Low Taek Jho, a close friend of Mr Najib's stepson Riza Aziz.

"A prime minister must be seen to be clean and able to explain and answer questions and to be good for the country,"said Dr Mahathir. "Najib cannot even answer and has not answered any question, beyond exercising elegant silence or saying the allegations are not true."

What Mr Najib says:

He says 1MDB has more assets than liabilities and has enough money to pay off all its debts.

"We can question the business model; I am prepared to listen to differing views but I want to stress here that I don't condone, I cannot accept any abuse of power in 1MDB. For example, money being dissipated ... and so on.

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

What observers say:

His response to the troubles at 1MDB fails to address questions about how it ended up with such huge debts and the extent of Mr Low's involvement in the decisions taken by the state agency.

Murder of Mongolian interpreter

What Dr Mahathir says:

He has called for a new inquiry into the 2006 murder of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu, 28, who was at the centre of an alleged kickback scandal in a French submarine purchase deal involving high-level Malaysian officials. He has said there's absence of a motive to kill and Mr Najib's former bodyguard Sirul Azhar Umar, who claims he had followed orders to kill her, should not have been sentenced to death. Sirul, 43, and another former police commando, Azilah Hadri, 38, were sentenced to death in 2009 and received a reprieve in 2013, but this was overturned in January this year.

What Mr Najib says:

Mr Najib, who was defence minister at the time of the murder, maintains that he was not at all involved - directly or indirectly.

"And there is no proof at all, whatsoever, that I had known Altantuya. None at all ... no photographs, no documents, no witnesses and what not. The case went through the courts up to the Federal Court. Are we going to question the integrity of the courts which we had safeguarded for so long?

What observers say:

Mr Najib has not addressed the main issues relating to the motive for the murder and if anyone had ordered the killing. He has merely reiterated his innocence and that he did not know the Mongolian national.

General election

What Dr Mahathir says:

He says the Umno party and the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition will lose in the next general election if Mr Najib remains the country's leader.

What Mr Najib says:

He has retorted by saying that it is Dr Mahathir's personal opinion that the BN and Umno will lose in the coming election.

"What we in the party feel is that the success of Umno and the BN depends on our strength. Our strength will only translate into success if we are united in the party. If we are united and do not fight one another, there is no element of sabotage and so on, I am confident that we will win in the coming GE14."

He also says the support within the ruling party "has been very good".

"So I see that the party is with me, behind me to continue to lead the party and the country. But, as I said, I can accept criticisms. But, ultimately, I am not responsible to any individual, I am responsible to Malaysians and the party.

SOURCE; THE STRAITS TIMES ARCHIVES, MALAYSIAN INSIDER, MALAYSIAKINI, THE STAR