Malaysia's ex-PM Mahathir unmoved by PM Najib's FAQs

Dr Mahathir Mohamad with his new book Selected Letters To World Leaders. The former Malaysian premier has been PM Najib Razak's harshest critic and has campaigned to remove him as Umno president.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad with his new book Selected Letters To World Leaders. The former Malaysian premier has been PM Najib Razak's harshest critic and has campaigned to remove him as Umno president.THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

He says doubts about PM's leadership were not erased

TUN DR Mahathir Mohamad dismissed Prime Minister Najib Razak's FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), saying they did little to erase doubts about his leadership.

The former premier also warned yesterday that Umno's disappointing by-election results early this month foreshadowed certain defeat for Datuk Seri Najib's ruling Umno party in the next general election.

The Prime Minister, in a swipe at his harshest critic, said that unlike Dr Mahathir, he was elected Umno president in an open and democratic manner.

"I was the first Umno president elected under a new party Constitution that is more open and more democratic," The Star newspaper quoted Mr Najib as saying at a gathering of Umno veterans yesterday.

He pointed out that previous elections for the Umno president had a system of bonus votes and quotas. "Previously, anyone who wanted to challenge the party presidency had to have nominations from 63 party divisions. That is how Tun Mahathir Mohamad could stay in power for 22 years," he said.

Mr Najib said he, too, could remain in power for 22 years by amending the party Constitution, but chose not to do so because he wanted to be elected sincerely by his party members.

In an unprecedented move, Mr Najib on Sunday posted the FAQs on his blog to counter critics who have been galvanised by Dr Mahathir's campaign to remove him as Umno president.

The lengthy FAQ posting responded to allegations regarding controversial issues, such as the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the so-called Crooked Bridge to Singapore and cash handouts to poor Malaysians.

Mr Najib, also responding to claims that he bought a luxury jet for his personal use, said the new aircraft replaced a 16-year-old plane that was becoming a safety hazard. But Dr Mahathir responded by asking: "It doesn't answer anything... Does that plane help the security of Sabah?", referring to kidnappings for ransom on the eastern border with the Philippines that have continued despite Malaysia forming a special security force after Sabah was invaded by Muslim militants in 2013.

"People actually invade Malaysia. That is a security problem. What has the government done about it? Buy a luxury aircraft," said Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister, who stepped down in 2003, after 22 years in office.

Dr Mahathir was speaking at a press conference after launching the second volume of his book, Selected Letters To World Leaders, yesterday.

The leaders included former United States presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; three former British prime ministers, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Mr John Major and Mr Tony Blair; and former Singapore leaders Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

Dr Mahathir exchanged letters with Mr Lee in 2001 and 2002 over the issue of water as well as the aborted plan to replace the Causeway with a new bridge. Mr Lee died in March at age 91.

His correspondence with Mr Goh in 1995 concerned plans for a dual-track electric rail system from Singapore to Bangkok.

shannont@sph.com.sg