Monday, 13 April 2015

Mahathir: Cash assistance being given to ungrateful people

TODAY, 12 Apr 2015

KUALA LUMPUR — Dr Mahathir Mohamad has repeated his opposition to the government’s 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) policy, saying the cash assistance is given to ungrateful people.

In an interview with blogger Din Turtle, the former prime minister questioned the need to give RM500 (S$187) to those who earn RM4,000 monthly, claiming 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 uploaded on the Din Turtle blog yesterday (April 11).

“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.

Prime Minister Najib Razak told TV3 in a televised interview on Thursday that Dr Mahathir had wanted the BR1M policy scrapped and the “Crooked Bridge” linking Johor to Singapore’s side of the Causeway to be revived, two issues which he said could have been part of the reason why the former PM increased his criticisms towards him.

Dr Mahathir told Din Turtle that his administration had focused on creating jobs and improving education, questioning the current government’s policy on wanting to collect taxes and yet giving the money away to the public through BR1M at the same time.

“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,” he said.

The Malay Mail paper reported Second Finance Minister Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah as saying in Ipoh in February last year that at least 17,000 households throughout the country had rejected the latest BR1M payout.

Under Budget 2015 announced last October, BR1M payouts will be increased from RM450 to RM750 for households earning between RM3,000 and RM4,000 monthly, while payouts for households with a monthly income of RM3,000 and below will be raised from RM650 to RM950.

International news wire Reuters reported AmResearch as saying last October that the expansion in BR1M is expected to cost the government RM7.5 billion this year.

In recent remarks, Dr Mahathir said he could no longer remain silent and that the days for diplomacy have long passed, adding he will now push for Mr Najib’s resignation openly.

He said the prime minister’s refusal to address allegations such as those surrounding 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) and linking him to the murder of Altantuya Shaariibuu put Barisan Nasional’s (BN) rule at risk.


Dr Mahathir goes for broke
How far will Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad go in his sniping against incumbent Najib Razak?
By Joceline Tan, The Straits Times, 13 Apr 2015

POKOK Sena MP Mahfuz Omar was on cloud nine last week. The Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) politician has been championing the cause of convicted murderer Sirul Azhar, and last Wednesday he brought Sirul's mother and uncle to meet former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in Putrajaya.

It was quite a coup for Mr Mahfuz. The next day he held a press conference, where he showed reporters pictures from the meeting that he had taken with his mobile phone. He is a big football fan and it was like he had scored a goal.

Mr Mahfuz, who is also PAS information chief, was elated that he and Tun Dr Mahathir are on the same page in wanting to help Sirul clear his name and escape the death penalty for the 2006 murder of Mongolian interpreter Altantuya Shaariibuu.

The PAS leader was as surprised as everyone else by Dr Mahathir's sudden interest in the case. He had been made to look rather foolish after a promised tell-all phone session with Sirul turned out to be a tell-nothing.

He felt vindicated that Dr Mahathir was now on his side. He told reporters that he was planning another teleconferencing session - this time, between Dr Mahathir and Sirul, who had run off to Australia to seek asylum.

Dr Mahathir, as everyone knows, is on the warpath with Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and his interest in Sirul's cause was very much connected to his bigger cause against the incumbent PM.

The idea of a telephone conversation between the big man and the murder convict was bizarre, but it was something that everyone would be talking about.

But Mr Mahfuz has tripped again. Barely hours after Sirul's mother and uncle met Dr Mahathir, Sirul telephoned his lawyer to protest against the way certain people were exploiting his case for their own interests.

He did not want his mother being dragged into the picture and he stressed that his priority was to win his legal appeal to remain in Australia. He called his lawyer twice to drum home his message.

Suffice it to say, Mr Mahfuz has since fallen from cloud nine and is back to square one.

Whatever secrets Sirul may be keeping, he was not about to be a pawn in the grand political games going on back home - not even if they involve the man for whom he used to be the bodyguard. Mr Mahfuz will have to find ways other than cheap publicity to win a post in the PAS election in June.

Can Mahathir accept anyone as PM?

AS FOR Dr Mahathir, well, no one can tell him what to do. He is a man with a sense of destiny, the last of the big-idea leaders of his era. As many in Umno often say, there will never be another Dr Mahathir.

He has made up his mind that Mr Najib has to go, the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) debacle being the chief reason for his disenchantment.

Those in Umno who love Dr Mahathir but support Mr Najib were still hopeful of a reconciliation until the day the elder man joined the Altantuya bandwagon.

They were stunned that Dr Mahathir would rally to the side of a convicted murderer and fugitive. Mr Najib had, after all, twice invoked the name of Allah to declare that he did not know and was never linked to the dead Mongolian woman. One of these occasions took place inside a mosque.

They knew then that the former premier had burned his bridges with Mr Najib and that he was prepared to do what it takes to achieve his objective.

"He always goes for broke," said a Mahathir insider.

The situation, said the insider, is as serious as when Dr Mahathir went for Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi after Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament in the 2008 General Election.

"He has no problems with the party, only with the leader, and it is up to Umno to decide. People come to him to complain and he feels it is his duty to voice out," said the insider.

There is also a sense of history repeating itself. Dr Mahathir is unapologetic about having gone through four deputies and for trying to bring down yet another sitting prime minister.

But the Umno ground does not seem to be moving in concert with him this time. Even those who are concerned about the lack of disclosure on 1MDB are not comfortable with the idea of toppling another premier midterm just because Dr Mahathir says so.

Many Malaysians gave Dr Mahathir the benefit of the doubt when he declared war on Mr Abdullah. They were appreciative of how he brought Malaysia into the modern era and they wanted to believe he was doing the right thing.

But there has been some kind of political fatigue and cynicism surrounding his attempt to pull off the same thing again.

People are asking: Haven't we seen this before? How many times is it going to happen? Will he ever accept anyone but himself as prime minister? The general concern is that if Dr Mahathir gets his way and installs someone else whom he approves of, history will be repeated if the new man does not meet his expectations. The thinking out there is that if a prime minister has to make way, it is for the people to decide.

Bittersweet side of politics

MR NAJIB senses the sentiments and, during his television interview last Thursday night, he repeated several times that he is answerable to his party and the people, and not to an individual. He was basically saying that his political survival is for Umno and the voters to decide.

He did not once criticise his attacker. The closest he came to criticism was when he said no one is perfect and that includes him as well as Dr Mahathir. He described what was happening as "asam garam politik", or the bittersweet side of politics.

He is indebted to Dr Mahathir. The elder man played a pivotal role in ensuring Mr Abdullah picked Mr Najib as his deputy back in 2003. Dr Mahathir had put the two in their respective jobs and hence he felt he had the locus standi to remove them.

This rather feudalistic practice has to end because that is not how a modern democracy works.

Mr Najib touched on a wide range of issues in his television interview, but he did not adequately clear all the question marks surrounding the 1MDB issue and that can only mean a continuation of attacks from Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir has been going at Mr Najib since last year. The question being asked is how far he is prepared to go. If he fails to push out Mr Najib, will bitterness set in and make him act in ways that will be detrimental to Umno?

That is what many in Umno are most worried about. In hindsight, a number of them now claim that Dr Mahathir's attacks against Mr Abdullah also chipped away at Umno's image and contributed to the 2008 political tsunami.

Their fear is that his action now will cause a second tsunami in the next general election. Mr Najib alluded to this in his interview, saying that a political party falls not from external threats but because of internal strife.

There has been some kind of restraining order from the top against any sort of retaliation against Dr Mahathir. But some Umno leaders, especially those who had been close to Mr Abdullah and who resented what Dr Mahathir did to him, have been unable to hold back and have started taking potshots.

Cheras Umno division chief Syed Ali Alhabshee, a fierce supporter of both Mr Najib and Dr Mahathir, is angry that some Umno-owned media bodies have been used to do that. He slammed a TV station for soliciting views only from people who are critical of Dr Mahathir. "They should help unite the two leaders instead of adding oil to fire. Defend Najib by all means, but please show respect for Dr Mahathir, who has done so much for the country."

Mr Najib has not crumbled in the face of the attacks because of his hold over the party. Unlike Mr Abdullah, Mr Najib's tentacles in the party extend throughout the country. He started building his political network when he was Umno Youth chief and it is quite formidable by now.

Anyone in Umno is free to take him on in the next party election, but he will be unbeatable. Besides, he has the support of Umno's backbone. Last Thursday, Wanita Umno leader Shahrizat Abdul Jalil took the lead when she convened a special executive committee meeting, followed by what she called a "heart-to-heart session" between the division Wanita heads and Mr Najib.

"Wanita Umno is always loyal to the leadership - whether during the time of Dr Mahathir or Mr Abdullah and now in Mr Najib's time. We will not abandon Mr Najib and we want him to continue explaining to the rakyat (people)," said Datuk Seri Shahrizat.

Mr Abdullah broke his silence last Friday to clear Mr Najib's name. He said the police investigation reports on the Altantuya murder came to him when he was premier and he could confirm that Mr Najib was not involved at all.

All eyes will be on Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in the months ahead. Dr Mahathir has hinted that Mr Muhyiddin has his support to take over, but does the deputy premier have the support in Umno to take on Mr Najib?

Mr Muhyiddin has played it cool, saying little and smiling a lot. He has said Mr Najib should be given the chance to do his work. But he also said issues raised in Dr Mahathir's blog should not be taken lightly.

It is going to be a difficult balancing act for Umno leaders, who have to stay loyal to their president while showing respect to the former prime minister.


Don't make too much noise, Najib tells Mahathir
The Straits Times, 11 May 2015

TAWAU (SABAH) - The gloves are off for the first time for Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as he lashed back at former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, telling his critic to return his favour and not "make too much noise".

"In 1987, I was among those who supported him. Why he (Tun Dr Mahathir) remained as prime minister? Because we were united in difficult times," the Bernama news agency quoted Datuk Seri Najib as saying.

"If we did not support the leader during trying times, Dr Mahathir would not have been the prime minister for 22 years."

"Therefore, do not forget the past. When he was the prime minister, we fully supported him. Now he is not the prime minister, so return the support.

"Even if (he) cannot support, don't make too much noise and disrupt the party. We can clarify the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue," Mr Najib said.

He was addressing an audience of more than 40,000 people who had gathered at the Perbandaran Tawau field in conjunction with the "Sabahans Solidarity Gathering" yesterday.

Dr Mahathir has in recent weeks piled pressure on Mr Najib by publicly calling on him to resign over his handling of debt-laden state-owned investment agency 1MDB and other issues.

Mr Najib said every leader, including himself, would have to face severe tests during their tenure as leaders, and Dr Mahathir was no exception since he, too, had gone through even more tests during his tenure as premier, Bernama reported.

Taking a swipe at Dr Mahathir, Mr Najib said: "I was elected as Prime Minister in a democratic way and no one individual has a right to ask me to step down."

Mr Najib also pointed out that Dr Mahathir had been misleading people when he said 1MDB lost RM42 billion (S$15.5 billion). He had then backtracked and said it owed RM42 billion.

Given time, the government has its own way of solving the issue, said Mr Najib.

Najib answers critics through FAQs on blog
Novel move in lengthy posting comes in wake of questions over leadership
By Shannon Teoh Malaysia Correspondent In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 18 May 2015

MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Najib Razak has posted FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on his blog in an unprecedented move to silence increasingly loud questions about his leadership by critics such as former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Datuk Seri Najib's lengthy posting, while not naming Tun Dr Mahathir, responded to allegations raised by the long-serving former premier concerning the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the so-called Crooked Bridge to Singapore and cash handouts to poor Malaysians.

The systematic responses on 13 issues offered little new information - except legal reasons why the Causeway could not be demolished in favour of the crooked bridge proposed by Dr Mahathir. But it was Mr Najib's most comprehensive rebuttal yet in what analysts see as a battle to control information dispensed to the public.

In the posting on yesterday, he said the Attorney-General had advised that pipes along the Johor Causeway belong to Singapore's national water agency PUB, according to the 1960s Johor-Singapore water agreements, and that any changes to them without PUB approval would be in breach of international law.

"There is no question of whether we have enough courage to go up against Singapore," he wrote.

"The people must take into account that in politics, many issues keep being played up, and this [Altantuya] is one of...
Posted by Najib Razak on Sunday, May 17, 2015

He also went on the offensive, saying "someone who used to continually criticise the international media as being biased now suddenly believes and takes their arguments as the truth", with regard to allegations of rising corruption.

On claims that abuse of public funds had seen 1MDB's debt rise to RM42 billion (S$16 billion) in just five years, he argued that "we need to get the information from legitimate sources (like the Auditor-General) and not third-party news portals or online blogs that might have hidden agendas".

Besides public speeches, Dr Mahathir has used his blog to ratchet up pressure on Mr Najib, saying the latter's continued leadership of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) would cause it to lose power for the first time ever. He has called for Mr Najib's resignation.

Mr Najib often preferred to appear on national television to address current issues, but last month's live hour-long interview on a government-controlled channel was panned by analysts and critics for failing to allay doubts for which he has now given more detailed responses on his blog.

Mr Ibrahim Suffian of independent pollster Merdeka Centre said "the best way for the PM to regain political capital is to focus on working on issues affecting the country (but) at the same time he can't keep silent on issues raised".

As he could not keep repeating explanations, the FAQs provide "a polite way of saying 'talk to the hand' ".

Mahathir unmoved by Najib's FAQs
He says doubts about PM's leadership were not erased
By Shannon Teoh, Malaysia Correspondent, In Kuala Lumpur, The Straits Times, 19 May 2015

TUN DR Mahathir Mohamad dismissed Prime Minister Najib Razak's FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), saying they did little to erase doubts about his leadership.

The former premier also warned yesterday that Umno's disappointing by-election results early this month foreshadowed certain defeat for Datuk Seri Najib's ruling Umno party in the next general election.

The Prime Minister, in a swipe at his harshest critic, said that unlike Dr Mahathir, he was elected Umno president in an open and democratic manner.

"I was the first Umno president elected under a new party Constitution that is more open and more democratic," The Star newspaper quoted Mr Najib as saying at a gathering of Umno veterans yesterday.

He pointed out that previous elections for the Umno president had a system of bonus votes and quotas. "Previously, anyone who wanted to challenge the party presidency had to have nominations from 63 party divisions. That is how Tun Mahathir Mohamad could stay in power for 22 years," he said.

Mr Najib said he, too, could remain in power for 22 years by amending the party Constitution, but chose not to do so because he wanted to be elected sincerely by his party members.

In an unprecedented move, Mr Najib on Sunday posted the FAQs on his blog to counter critics who have been galvanised by Dr Mahathir's campaign to remove him as Umno president.

The lengthy FAQ posting responded to allegations regarding controversial issues, such as the murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the so-called Crooked Bridge to Singapore and cash handouts to poor Malaysians.

Mr Najib, also responding to claims that he bought a luxury jet for his personal use, said the new aircraft replaced a 16-year-old plane that was becoming a safety hazard. But Dr Mahathir responded by asking: "It doesn't answer anything... Does that plane help the security of Sabah?", referring to kidnappings for ransom on the eastern border with the Philippines that have continued despite Malaysia forming a special security force after Sabah was invaded by Muslim militants in 2013.

"People actually invade Malaysia. That is a security problem. What has the government done about it? Buy a luxury aircraft," said Malaysia's longest-serving prime minister, who stepped down in 2003, after 22 years in office.

Dr Mahathir was speaking at a press conference after launching the second volume of his book, Selected Letters To World Leaders, yesterday.

The leaders included former United States presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush; three former British prime ministers, Mrs Margaret Thatcher, Mr John Major and Mr Tony Blair; and former Singapore leaders Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong.

Dr Mahathir exchanged letters with Mr Lee in 2001 and 2002 over the issue of water as well as the aborted plan to replace the Causeway with a new bridge. Mr Lee died in March at age 91.

His correspondence with Mr Goh in 1995 concerned plans for a dual-track electric rail system from Singapore to Bangkok.

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