PETALING JAYA - Former Malaysian Cabinet minister Rafidah Aziz has called on the younger generation to emulate the principles and values held by billionaire Robert Kuok, joining a number of recent prominent figures who have recently spoken up to defend him, The Star reported.
Tan Sri Rafidah, who was International Trade and Industry Minister, said in a Facebook post on Sunday (March 4): "I never saw him in any light other than as a person whose principles and values the younger generation should try to emulate."
She said Kuok, whom she had known personally since the early 1980s, was a person of integrity, honesty and ethics.
The country's longest serving International Trade and Industry Minister, Ms Rafidah held the post from 1987 to 2008, serving serving under the administration of former Prime Ministers Mahathir Mohamad and Abdullah Badawi.
She said that she had even gotten Mr Kuok to speak with her kids when they were young about ethics.
She pointed out that even though the general election was around the corner, it did not give anyone licence to practise filthy politics, raising issues that would divide multi-racial Malaysia, and demean and character assassinate individuals.
"Please, in the spirit of Malaysia, our entrepreneurs have been investing to add value to our economy and nation," she said.
Tan Sri Kuok has been in the political spotlight in recent weeks after a blogger's claims that the Hong Kong-based tycoon was funding opposition parties and a news site in order to overthrow the government. Mr Kuok has refuted those allegations and threatened to take action against the news portal for publishing the allegations.
Malaysian banker Nazir Razak had on Thursday posted a tribute to Mr Kuok on Instagram, calling him a patriot and an icon of Malaysian business.
"I may not agree with all his views but he is a patriot, the icon of Malaysian business and a first-class gentleman," said Mr Nazir.
The allegations against Mr Kuok had sparked harsh criticism of the 94-year-old billionaire by senior members of Umno, the Malay dominant party leading the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
Umno leader Tajuddin Abdul Rahman warned Mr Kuok not to forget his roots and how he emerged as Malaysia's richest man.
Tourism and Culture Minister Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz called Mr Kuok a "pondan" (effeminate man) and a coward, and said he should surrender his Malaysian citizenship. He also challenged Mr Kuok to return to contest in the coming polls.
The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), BN's Chinese component party, has also defended Mr Kuok, with party secretary-general Ong Ka Chuan saying the remarks by Umno leaders were "regrettable".
Prime Minister Najib Razak last week said that despite their hard work, discipline and focus, some of Malaysia's richest people owed their success to opportunities created by government policies. But he acknowledged that Mr Kuok's success as an entrepreneur was a Malaysian success story.
On Sunday, Wanita MCA Heng Seai Kie said Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz should take responsibility for his mistake or the BN may have to pay the price.
"Every single vote counts. One simple, scathing statement like that is completely destructive. It is not fair to the Barisan component parties who had put in a lot of effort to engage more voters," she told a press conference.
Selangor Mentri Besar Azmin Ali has also weighed in, saying Mr Kuok had contributed to the development of Malaysia. He added that Malaysia would not have been as prosperous without the Chinese community, including Mr Kuok.