PETALING JAYA • The 1Malaysia programme to promote national unity was among the reasons the relationship between Najib Razak and current Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad soured, said the former premier.
In an interview with Malaysiakini published on Thursday, Najib said Tun Dr Mahathir was not happy with some of his projects and policy decisions.
"We had a very good relationship. We used to spend quite a lot of time (together). He would invite me to his house for dinner and after dinner, we would retire to his room on the upper floor of his house and sit down, talk about things," Najib said.
"In the early stages after I became prime minister, around 2009 and even after the 13th general election (in 2013), we were still on very good terms," Najib said.
But, he said, Dr Mahathir grew increasingly angry at him due to his refusal to fulfil his many requests.
He said the first thing Dr Mahathir requested was for him to approve the crooked bridge project, a six-lane S-shaped highway meant to replace the link from Johor Baru to Singapore, which had been scrapped earlier.
"The project was cancelled by Pak Lah (former prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi). It would be very hard for me to explain to the public if we restart the project, especially after hefty compensation was already paid for the cancellation," Najib said.
He said Dr Mahathir had also requested more funds to develop Langkawi island and for his son Mukhriz Mahathir to become the Kedah Menteri Besar.
Najib told Malaysiakini that even though he fulfilled some of Dr Mahathir's requests, the 92-year-old remained unhappy with him.
"He was not happy about certain things like 1Malaysia. He was not happy about the jet. The jet was bought by Pak Lah, but I notice until today he (Mahathir) is still using it," he added.
1Malaysia was a programme designed by Najib in 2010 to promote ethnic harmony, national unity and efficient governance. It included aid for the needy under schemes like the 1Malaysia People's Aid, 1Malaysia Housing Programme for Civil Servants, 1Malaysia People's Housing Projects, 1Malaysia Clinics and 1Malaysia Student Discount Card.
Najib said in the interview that Dr Mahathir was also angry that the Internal Security Act was abolished and the Emergency Ordinance lifted.
According to Najib, Dr Mahathir was upset over the implementation of a minimum wage, and the treatment of Proton because the government later withdrew subsidies and taxes that protected the national car company formed during Dr Mahathir's first tenure as premier.
Najib also questioned Dr Mahathir's change in persona from the man who was instrumental in founding Malay rights group Perkasa to a "reformist" under then opposition group Pakatan Harapan.
He told Malaysiakini that he was surprised to see Dr Mahathir joining hands with the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP), a party Dr Mahathir used to label as racist and anti-Malay.
"So when they got together, that was something I did not expect," Najib said. "(But) I suppose once you join the (then) opposition, you are sanitised. You become completely absolved of all these things as far as they are concerned," he added.
Najib also denied that Umno, the Malay-dominant party he used to helm, had demonised DAP.
"I did not explicitly say they were racist or anti-Malay or anti-Islam, but I did express concerns about DAP because of their policies," he said.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK