Mahathir's comments on JB's Forest City are slanderous, says Najib

Project model on display at the Country Garden Forest City Sales Gallery.
Project model on display at the Country Garden Forest City Sales Gallery.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA) - Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad committed slander against the Federal and Johor governments with his comments on the Forest City project in Johor Baru, his estranged successor Najib Tun Razak said on Friday (Jan 20).

The Prime Minister dismissed Dr Mahathir's allegation that 700,000 Chinese nationals would be brought to Johor under the project and granted Malaysian citizenship.

"When the Johor government approved the Forest City project, the reclaimed land for the project was to be sold to outsiders on a 99-year lease only.

"When they build houses, these are sited on our land. Where is the question of our sovereignty being sacrificed?" he said when launching the "Jom Bantu Rakyat" (Let's Help the People) programme in Desa Pandan here Friday.

Najib has been accused by his critics of "selling out" the country's assets after inking investments and soft loans worth RM144 billion (S$46 billion) with China last November.

He has repeatedly defended the deals, labelling the attacks as a scare tactic by the opposition.

Leading the critics are Mahathir former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who said the huge influx of money might force Malaysia to politically lean more towards Beijing, and that the Chinese firms could get sweetheart deals such as allowing them to bring in their own material, technology and workers.

Najib said Chinese nationals, whose country was a global economic power and who earned a high income, would not desire to become Malaysian citizens.

He also said that Chinese nationals who participated in the "Malaysia, My Second Home" programme were not entitled to Malaysian citizenship although they lived in this country.

Najib asked what difference it would make if nationals of other countries bought houses in Kuala Lumpur and Chinese nationals bought houses in Johor.

"Is the purchase of houses in Kuala Lumpur by Americans and Japanese good, and the purchase of houses in Johor by the Chinese not good?" he asked.

Najib also explained his recent official visit to China was aimed at attracting investments to Malaysia.

He cited the success of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which was once a desert, but is now a great metropolis with people earning high incomes as a result of foreign investments and land development.

"If the Dubai policies can be successful, we too can develop our land," he said.

Dr Mahathir had alleged that Chinese nationals coming to Johor would be given Malaysian identification cards to enable them to vote in the next general election.

Najib also chided Dr Mahathir over the former premier's statement Thursday on DAP's desire for the post of deputy prime minister if the Opposition pact won the next general election.

Najib said that during Dr Mahathir's 22 years as prime minister, he had denounced DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang as a racist, anti-Muslim and anti-Malay leader and now he wanted to offer the country's No. 2 post to the party.

"If that's the case, we have no hope for the future. Let's not, just because of politics, make such statements or dealings which will have a major implication on all of us," he said.

Najib said it was pointless for the people to think about this matter because what they needed was a government that could bring the country forward.

"I and my colleagues in the Government want to take Malaysia to greater heights, to be a top 20 nation in the world, over the next 30 years, and this can be achieved if we are not distracted by too much politicking.

"If we do not incite the people, if we do not confuse the people and if the people know the direction and extend their support, God willing, we will reach the destination that we aspire to and envision," he said.