On-trial Najib says he wants to clear name before thinking about Dr Mahathir

Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court July 17, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Datuk Seri Najib Razak is pictured at the Kuala Lumpur High Court July 17, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is on trial for a slew of corruption and criminal charges, said he wants to clear his name in court before deciding what he will do about Langkawi MP Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a former mentor-turned-adversary.

The Pekan MP said it is his main focus for now.

“Once that is done, I will decide, since Dr Mahathir’s public remarks against me were excessive and too personal in nature,” he said during an online talk show with Malay daily Sinar Harian tonight.

Najib told host Haslina AR Kamaludin that he believes in rebutting criticisms with “facts, numbers and truth” in response to attacks by Dr Mahathir, a fellow former prime minister.

“As you can see, I have never engaged in anything personal or character assassination, but instead focus on policies, ideas, and good proposals.

“At the most, there may be a bit of harmless ribbing, to lighten the mood and not make things boring. All signs of healthy and mature politics,” Najib said.

He claimed the excessive personal accusations levelled against him to have backfired and boosted his popularity with Malaysians again, despite the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s stunning electoral defeat in GE14 two years ago under his leadership.

“Otherwise, I would not be as popular as I am today, with 4.1 million followers on Facebook. So this sort of approach may instead lead to more sympathy, as many would deem it appropriate to display such political values,” he said.

Najib also denied playing a pivotal role in the political gambit dubbed the “Sheraton Move” in February which saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government led by Dr Mahathir and the emergence of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) alliance led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin.

“I had no direct role in the Sheraton Move, even if Dr Mahathir accused me as such. This was something accomplished by other parties, and in the vacuum of Pakatan’s fall, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong appointed Muhyiddin as prime minister, as per his discretionary powers under the Federal Constitution.

“Some may say it is a backdoor government, but ultimately it is based on the constitution,” Najib said, referring to disparaging descriptions of PN by its critics.

Malaysia’s sixth prime minister also said he is “in favour of a general election” amid widespread speculation that one may be called ahead of 2023, when the five-year limit for the government is up.

“As I have stated before, since doing so I feel will return power to the rakyat to let them decide,” Najib said.

However, he said the power to appoint a new government rests with the King, adding that it should be respected.

“The main thing is the rakyat now has a government which can do what is necessary to help them, develop the country, and especially to overcome the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and its economic effects.

“Ultimately, Pakatan lost not because of me, but because they lost the trust of the rakyat. In five consecutive by-elections since the 14th general election, they lost most of them, in places like Tanjung Piai and Kimanis, by wider margins.

“They forgot the main duty of the government is to develop the country, and defend the rakyat,” Najib said.

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