KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's richest man Robert Kuok, who lives in Hong Kong, is in the political spotlight in the last few days after Prime Minister Najib Razak said his business boomed due to government help, and a blogger claimed an opposition party has been receiving funds from Mr Kuok.
The businessman, 94, was dubbed Malaysia's "sugar king" for long years as he had the government concession to trade sugar in the country.
He also traded rice and flour, and his empire includes hotel chain Shangri-La, Kerry Properties and commodities trader Wilmar.
Mr Kuok released a memoir late last year where he implicitly criticised Malaysia's affirmative-action policy to help Malays and other Bumiputera races in education and business.
Speaking on Saturday, Datuk Seri Najib said some of Malaysia's richest people owe their success to opportunities created through policies implemented by the government, which is led by the 13-party Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
"If we look at the list of names of the richest people in Malaysia, such as Robert Kuok, who gave him the key to become the rice and sugar king? It was given to him by the ruling government," said the Prime Minister at an event in Serdang, Selangor.
"Yes, he is driven, hardworking, industrious and disciplined - but that is not enough. Everyone still needs the key and they are hopeful that government policies are key to creating these opportunities," he said, as quoted by The Star newspaper.
On Thursday (Feb 22), senior Umno leader Tajuddin Abdul Rahman told Mr Kuok not to forget his roots and how he emerged as Malaysia's richest man.
The politician was hitting back at allegations by a pro-Umno blogger that Mr Kuok had given money to opposition Democratic Action Party.
"This is the problem when someone is rich, they forget their roots. When by right he became rich from the BN government's policies, not the DAP's," Datuk Seri Tajuddin said, as quoted by Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia.
Blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin had alleged that Mr Kuok purportedly has an agenda to topple the BN government to allow the Chinese-led DAP to rise, an especially sensitive topic with the general election expected in the first half of this year.
DAP leader Lim Kit Siang on Sunday (Feb 25) denied the assertion thathe had received funds for the party from a nephew of Mr Kuok.
"The latest 'fake news' is that I have received astronomical donations from tycoon Robert Kuok through his nephew, James Kuok," Mr Lim said, as quoted by Malaysiakini news site.
Mr James Kuok on Saturday denied channelling money to the DAP, either from his uncle or using his own funds, Malaysiakini reported.