Malaysian PM Najib Razak trades barbs again with Mahathir Mohamad in blogosphere

PUTRAJAYA - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has taken another dig at his sharpest critic, telling Malaysians not to be taken in by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's "half-truths", "misleading jokes and twisting statements".

Describing the former prime minister as a "master of public perception", Mr Najib has posted FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on his blog for the third time to defend himself from Dr Mahathir's attacks and calls for his resignation as Malaysia's most powerful man.

" It is unfortunate the Tun (Dr Mahathir) chooses to ignore all that this government has achieved under the various transformation programmes and the economic growth trajectory that Insha-Allah, will help us become a high income nation by 2020," Datuk Seri Najib wrote.

Dr Mahathir, 89, served as premier from 1981 to 2003 before he was succeeded by Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, 75.

But Tun Abdullah made an abrupt exit in 2009 when he resigned after coming under withering criticism from his former boss, Dr Mahathir, who had called the Abdullah government "half-past six" and "corrupt". Today, Dr Mahathir is doing the same to Mr Najib, 61, who took over the reins from Mr Abdullah.

"The 'mess' that Tun (Dr Mahathir) refers to, is largely of his own making as a result of his attacks and his echoing of Opposition lies and slander. These allegations have been amplified through the Internet. This was something that Tun did not have to face when he was PM," said Mr Najib.

Highlighting the lack of social media during Dr Mahathir's days of premiership, Mr Najib said the former leader was spared of the "endless allegations that are recycled over and over and shared at lightning speed" as any controversy that arose from the actions of Dr Mahathir and his government would take days if not weeks to develop.

The word "viral" was almost non-existent during his administration, Mr Najib pointed out.

"Tun (Dr Mahathir) has clearly been taken in by the democratisation of information on social media, where all information no matter how untrue is treated as the truth. Today, online media with hidden agendas spin headlines and upload bold-faced lies that get shared and spread by the minute, and which perpetuates the perception that they must be true.

"Just because a lie is spread a thousand times does not make it true. With such an onslaught online, its not surprising that Tun thinks there is a bigger 'mess' today," said Mr Najib.

"Even if I step down, Tun will continue to intervene in the country's administration. He can say he is simply exercising his democratic rights as a citizen, but this is Tun Mahathir. People tend to believe whatever he says, even if it is not entirely accurate. It has a significant effect on public perception, as he is not just any ordinary citizen."

In a reminder to Dr Mahathir to stop intervening in the current administration, Mr Najib said: "Tun is a veteran politician and a master of public perception. He understands that political statements are not entirely about the truth but about what the people will believe in the court of public opinion.

"This is why he continues to make insinuations, speaking half-truths, cracking misleading jokes and twisting statements to make his views exciting and palatable."

Hitting back in his own blog post on Tuesday, Dr Mahathir pointed to a forum for which Mr Najib has been ridiculed for not showing up as arranged to answer questions about the alleged moneylaundering and other suspicious dealings of state-owned investment agency 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the centrepiece of Dr Mahathir's criticisms against the leader.

Although organisers were forced to cancel the Nothing2Hide forum upon police order which cited security reasons, speculations were rife that Mr Najib was trying to avoid a head-on confrontation with Dr Mahathir who had turned up without invitation.

"It is a pity. Najib could have explained everything and people like me would be silenced," Dr Mahathir wrote on Tuesday.

"The money belongs to the people. It is the duty of the police, the anti-corruption agency to investigate the complaints and the reports that has been made - including by Bank Negara. But the agencies have not investigated.

"There is a climate of fear which restrains them from investigating. For as long as the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister, investigating things involving him is not going to be really possible. It is necessary that the PM relinquish his position and authority if the Auditor General, the Public Accounts Committee or even a Royal Commission is to reveal the truth."