PETALING JAYA: Najib Razak has hit out at criticisms of his dealings with China when he was the prime minister, saying that for all the accusations made by the opposition that he was putting the country’s sovereignty at risk, it was quick to change its stance once it ascended to power.
He said the critics were wrong to suggest that the deals with China under the Belt and Road Initiative did not help the country, as projects like the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, the East Coast Rail Link, the Digital Free Trade Zone, and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail were slated to have billions of ringgit in economic benefits.
Delivering the opening keynote address at the 2021 World Chinese Economic Forum today, Najib said the period when Pakatan Harapan was in power was “one of the most fraught periods in Malaysia-China relations”, as it had put on hold many of the deals he had struck as the prime minister.
“These moves rattled the confidence of the Chinese investors,” he said.
He said the results of PH’s stand were clear, with foreign direct investments under its tenure far below what the country had attracted when he was in charge.
“Although the ECRL project was restored under new terms and conditions, the PH government sang a different tune as compared to pre-GE14, finally admitting that Chinese investment and technology capabilities were opportunities to drive Malaysia’s economic development.
“The Forest City project was also made into political propaganda to attack me. Prior to 2018, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed that the Barisan Nasional government was forsaking the country’s sovereignty to China, that we were offering 700,000 citizenships to these Chinese nationals to move to Forest City.
“Clearly, an outrageous, racist and abhorrent lie. He even promised to cancel the project should they win power in the upcoming elections then.”
However, after coming into power “on the back of this and other similar claims”, he said, Mahathir soon changed his tune.
“Suddenly, (PH) said the Forest City project had contributed immensely to the government, had created employment opportunities, promoted technology transfer and innovations and had benefited Malaysia’s economic growth and job creation. So much so that Mahathir even attended a ceremony to present a certificate of appreciation to the Forest City company.
“Imagine, from selling sovereignty to a certificate of appreciation within a space of a year.”
Najib took another parting shot at Mahathir while recognising the valuable contributions of Chinese Malaysians in the country’s development and their role in helping Malaysia recover economically from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Any post-pandemic recovery will count on their inherent strength to contribute to this process.
“It doesn’t matter if the Malaysian Chinese eat with chopsticks, fork and spoon or use their hands, as long as in their hearts and minds they are truly Malaysians,” he said, in an apparent reference to Mahathir’s comments that the use of chopsticks among the Chinese community was evidence of an unwillingness to assimilate to the Malaysian way of life.