PUTRAJAYA: Former prime minister Najib Razak will likely not be “around” for the next general election, Dr Mahathir Mohamad told Channel NewsAsia (CNA).
This is because, he said, Najib was expected to be charged with embezzlement, corruption and a “lot of other things”.
Najib is currently being investigated over money allegedly missing from 1MDB. Police are also reopening the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder case to which Najib’s name had been linked.
Najib, however, has maintained his innocence in both cases.
When CNA noted that the tale of former protege turned “persecuted nemesis” bore similarities to Anwar Ibrahim’s falling out with Mahathir in the late 1990s, Mahathir said the allegations against Najib were different.
“The case is clearer… the whole election was based on this accusation. So people are not going to say, well, we are persecuting this man and all that. They know of the wrong things that he has done. Their worry is that he might escape… good lawyers might get him off the hook.”
The prime minister said: “(There’s been a) disappearance of huge sums of money and then the appearance of money inside his account and all that. All these things point towards a criminal act… but on the other hand, if you want to go to the court, you must be able to prove (this) every step of the way.”
Mahathir told CNA that four agencies were looking into Najib’s alleged crimes and that it was up to the new attorney-general Tommy Thomas to “make out a good case before going to the courts”.
On the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya in Shah Alam in 2006, Mahathir said: “All we know about the Altantuya case, as stated by the father, is that he thought the hearing was not fair.
“Normally, when somebody says that I was instructed to do something, the next question is who instructed you. But somehow or other, the court did not stress on that.
“So, the father was dissatisfied and I think the police and the attorney-general, only if they have sufficient evidence of some failure of the legal process, then they can have another hearing.”
Altantuya is said to have been a translator on a controversial French submarine deal during Najib’s time as defence minister. She was also the lover of Najib’s then-aide Razak Baginda.
Two former policemen were convicted of the murder and sentenced to death but the motive for the murder was never determined.
After taking over the government, Mahathir set up task forces to probe 1MDB and replaced several key officials.
He told CNA: “Because they are at times involved in corruption and mismanagement of government funds, we need to move them out. It’s not a question of just because they may support the previous government that we are removing them… it’s because of the wrongdoings.”
However, Mahathir admitted to CNA that corruption had existed even during his first time in office between 1981 and 2003.
“I must admit that corruption is something that is prevalent in any government, including the time when I was prime minister,” he said.
“But of course, the level was not so high. But when the prime minister is believed to be corrupt, then you find all down the line, people tend to be well, less careful about whether what they do is right or wrong… So, it has happened much more during Najib’s time because he himself is known worldwide as being corrupt and has been taking government money.”
Asked by CNA what he thought he (Mahathir) was known for, the prime minister replied: “I don’t know… when I was previously prime minister, people called me a dictator, they called me by nasty names and all that.
“I never thought it was justified… Even if it had been justified, I don’t think the opposition would then accept me as their leader.
“But normally, when you are in power, people will have to demonise you, whether you are right or wrong, they have to demonise you, in order to fight against you.”
Dismissing suggestions that he had practised cronyism, Mahathir said: “If you investigate, you will find that I have a need to make corrections about the disparities within the community and to do that, I had to find people who are capable.
“If you give a project to somebody who is incapable, it’s not going to succeed… So you find people who are capable, and we give projects to them. Then of course, I was labelled as practising cronyism.”