PETALING JAYA - Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed has accused incumbent Najib Tun Razak of breaking his promise to build a crooked bridge between Johor Baru and Singapore, as he fired off a new round of criticism of the Najib administration, news reports said on Sunday.
In a four-part interview uploaded on a blog named Din Turtle on Saturday, two days after Mr Najib went on TV to respond to Dr Mahathir's criticisms of him, Dr Mahathir claimed that Mr Najib had supported the project when he succeeded Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as Prime Minister, The Star online reported.
Mr Abdullah resigned in 2009 after coming under withering criticism from Dr Mahathir. The latter was furious when Mr Abdullah cancelled several of his mega projects, including the "Crooked Bridge" to replace the ageing Causeway and the double-tracking railway to Singapore.
"He was my hope after Pak Lah (Abdullah) resigned. He said he would build the bridge when he became the prime minister even if Singapore opposes to it. But he didn't do," Dr Mahathir said of Mr Najib in the interview, The Star online reported.
Dr Mahathir, who governed Malaysia from 1981 to 2003, said he was unhappy when Mr Najib broke his promise and appeared to "kowtow" to Singapore for not proceeding with the project.
"If Singapore does not agree to this, it is not my fault. It is our sovereign right, it is in our own territorial area, territorial waters. Half of that Causeway belongs to us. I'm not touching Singapore's side.
"He (Najib) said he made an agreement with Singapore, where is our independence? Are we part of Singapore?" said Dr Mahathir.
Mr Najib has lately been besieged by the opposition and Dr Mahathir over a long list of issues, from the controversial deals made by the poor-performing state-owned investment agency 1Malaysia Development (1MDB) to tougher sedition laws approved on Friday by Parliament.
Mr Najib has ordered an official inquiry into the accounts of 1MDB.
In a special interview with TV3 on Thursday, Najib said Dr Mahathir's attacks against him could have been triggered due to their disagreement on the "crooked bridge" and his administration's cash handouts for lower-income Malaysians.
In his interview on Saturday, Dr Mahathir again criticised the government over its management of 1MDB, which has accumulated debts of RM42billion (S$15.66 billion) since being set up in 2009. Dr Mahathir demanded to know where 1MDB funds had gone.
He also demanded to know who was Low Taek Jho, a 33-year-old businessman commonly known as Jho Low and who purportedly managed investments of 1MDB, the Malaysian Insider (TMI) reported.
"Who is this Jho Low, who has suddenly become so very important? 'Apa dia punya (what is his)... dalam kerajaan pun dia tak ada jawatan (he has no government position), dia bukan (he is not a) civil servant... suddenly he has such power... and people tell me, although I cannot say it is proven that he conducts himself as if he is the government," Mahathir was quoted by TMI as saying in his interview.
Dr Mahathir also lashed out at BR1M cash assistance policy, the Malay Mail reported. He insisted that "feeding people with free money" was not an answer, but creating jobs and providing education to the people was what the country needs.
He said the government was giving money to people who don't need the help, such as by giving RM500 to those who earn RM4,000 monthly. Dr Mahathir claimed that that 17,000 Chinese people in Ipoh had rejected the cash handout.
"I disagree on BR1M because I don't like feeding people with free money," Dr Mahathir said in the interview, according to the Malay Mail.
"We've never given BR1M to people. We created jobs for people. Give them education, train them, so they can live and make money better.
"I have a picture of a family in Langkawi living in terrible conditions in a hut that doesn't even have a roof...Those people you can give, but you spend seven billion ringgit giving to people who are not even grateful," he added.