Najib betrayed the party, the people, and the country
"This is the people's battle. This is the citizens' battle," he said firmly.14 Mei 2016 16:17
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co on 13 February 2016 at his office, Yayasan Al-Bukhary, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Faisal Assegaf/Albalad.co)
I already interviewed him several times. I met again with the Malaysian iconic leader Mahathir Mohamad yesterday at his office at Yayasan Al-Bukhary in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
He is the longest prime minister in the Malaysian history. He hold that position for 22 years, from 1981 to 2003, before succeeded by Abdullah Badawi.
During his political career, he always be on the regime side, but currently he is leading the Save Malaysia campaign to remove Prime Minister Najib Razak from his post. He joined with the opposition parties, NGOs, and some groups to force Najib to resign because of the coruption scandals.
Though he did not want to be called as the opposition. "I am not in the opposition. I only want to remove Najib because Najib is doing a lot of damages to this country," Mahathir said in an exclusive interview with Faisal Assegaf from Albalad.co. "He should be removed. Who rules after him, whether from UMNO or BN (Barisan Nasional), is not my concern."
The leader who will be 90 year-old in July this year became emotionally when he was asked about his response on Najib's remarks that accused him betrayed the party. "He betrayed the party because he is not following the struggle of the party. He is not working for the people, the country, and the religion."
I realized he is too old for having a long time conversation. He looked so tired after the interview ran for half an hour. In that morning, around 10 am, He almost finished a cup of coffee on his table. And a big glass of water seemed he just sips once.
He also talked about the conflicts in Middle East. For many times he reiterated his position that Israel is the root of the cause in that region.
His answers on Najib issue reflected that he wants to fight totally. "This is the people's battle. This is the citizens' battle," he said firmly. "It is their battle because they are going to live here. I will go but they will leave here, their children will live here, and their grandchildren will live here."
Mahathir also realized he has six children and grandchildren. For sure, he does not want they live in the country led by a very bad leader like Najib Razak.
As Mahathir described Najib as the most unpopular leader in the Malaysia history, if the Save Malaysia campaign led by him succeeded to remove him, it could be his last prominent legacy for the Malaysian people.
What do you know about the transfer of money from member of a Saudi royal family to Najib personal account?
What I know about this money US$ 680 million equivalent to 2.6 billion ringgit in Najib's personal account in M-Bank. That's what I do know. At first, Najib says it is from some Arabs but he has not shown any documentary prove that it is from Arabs and we have never actually investigated whether these Arabs have so much money to give away, and what is his business, what his bank, this we don't know. What we do know is that money is in Najib's account.
Do you know who was the sender? From a member of Saudi royal family?
There is no evidence it comes from Saudi Arabia except for a letter which is not very conclusive, not credible.
But Saudi Foreign Minister Adil al-Jubair in January said that money transfered to Najib is a genuine donation. Do you believe about that?
He did not say this is a genuine donation. He was asked whether he was aware about this thing. He said he was aware. I am aware also, but it doesn't mean that I believe what he said. I am aware what Najib has been saying.
So, the Saudi foreign minister never said that this is a donation. It is demon.
But in a New York Times report, Jubair said that money is a genuine donation and no need obligation from Najib?
He was asked the question by a Malaysian reporter, "Are you aware about this money?" He says I am aware. But it doesn't mean he believes. He has not retracted his first statement that there is no record of any money from Saudi Arabia to Najib if it is an investment and the amount is small. That is what he said and he has never said, "I retract what I said before because of my awareness."
In your opinion, what is the motive of that transfer?
There is no motive of the transfer because there was no transfer from the Arab to Najib. What we do know for a fact is that the money in Najib's account. Where it comes from? It is something that has not been proved. We suspect it from 1MDB.
In March this year Saudi Arabia formed an anti-terror alliance. Saudi brought in Malaysia to join but not Indonesia though Indonesia is the largest base for islamic radicals in this region. Do you think Saudi has tried to buy a loyalty from Malaysian government regarding that funds?
No, is other way around. It is Malaysia wanted to get the support of Saudi Arabia for all these wrong things that have been done by the party. He wants Saudi to support him. That's why he sent our troops to Saudi Arabia which is something that he should not has done.
Why do you lead anti-Najib campaign known as Save Malaysia?
Well, it is because what he is doing is very wrong. Firstly, no prime minister should have that amount of money in his bank. You can not have it. Even if it is given to you, you must reject as specially it comes from a foreign country. Even if it is a donation from local people you can not accept because accepting that it means bribery, corruption. You can not accept that.
But if you accept for the party which happened even during my time, it goes into the party's account, not into your personal account. But Najib accepted this money from whatever source. He has this money in his private account and it is a secret, and the party was not due until the Wall Street Journal revealed.
I see a slow progress on the Save Malaysia campaign led by you because there is no concrete action and Najib has also underestimated your efforts to topple him. What is your comment about that?
He underestimated, yes. But as far as I am concerned within two months we have collected more than a million signatures. The only thing that is asked in that Declaration is Najib should stop becoming prime minister of Malaysia.
Everybody is agree. The parties in opposition and some of people from government party joined together asking Najib to step down. Before, the opposition and the govenrment party never worked together.
But in this issue, one issue only, getting Najib to step down, the opposition and members of the government who disagreed with Najib, they have come together to launch Citizen Declaration that Najib should be removed from prime minister.
So this Declaration will be submitted to the King aand ask him to force Najib to step down?
Constitutionally, the King can not remove Najib, but there are other things he can do if he wants to act against Najib. So, we are going to get the King to do something about it and the King can do something.
But there is no precedent in the Malaysian history that the King bravely take an affirm action against the government's wrongdoing?
Yes, in an independent Malaysia's history. But before independence, when the British wanted to create the Malay Union and takeover Malay states as the colonies, the King, the rulers of the Malay states, had already signed an agreement to handover their states to the British.
But the people objected and the people told the rulers to withdraw the agreement and not to attend the installation of the British governor and deputy of the governor. Upon the urging of the people, the rulers withdrew the agreement and did not attend the installation. As a result, two years later the Malay Union was replaced by the Federation of Malaya. There is a precedent.
But do you believe that can happen in the current situation?
We have no choice because Najib has closed all means of redress. There are ways of redress in the constitution of Malaysia. We can have motion of non-confident by members of parliament, but he has controlled this majority. So, they can not even speak or say one word against him.
If we report this matter to the police, the police will arrest the reporter and jail him.
So, do you think there is a very small possibility to force Najib to resign?
Well, the constitutional, the legal probation is no longer available to us. So, we had to resort to other thing. The other thing is by the public opinion, people's power.
But there is no big street protest, so what this campaign has been doing like a silent protest and I think it is not enough pressure against Najib?
This Declaration is more important than street demonstration. Street demonstrations, we do not know who they are, they are coming, be crowd and there is no commitment. But when you signed the Declaration, giving your IC number, it is a commitment that you are willing to sign and say that is what I want. So, this is much important than street demonstration.
But what is the concrete action? Because Najib can say that is only on paper?
Concrete action on the street means violences, fightings, killing people. That is not what we want. We want the people to say clearly that they do not want Najib as prime minister, and they present it to the King and ask the King to take action.
So, this is much more positive. When you signed a piece of paper is much better than sitting on the street and shouting. There is nothing happen. We have done that before.
How about if the King refused to take action against Najib?
We will see whether he will refuse or not. What Najib has done is also something that is not provided him for the law, what we are doing is also not provided him for the law. But as in the Philippine for example, people's power was able to get rid of Marcos.
Now, we are pursuing people's power, not through street demonstration but through signing. As you know, when you signed a document, it gave a legal status.
How many people do you target for signing the Declaration?
Currently we have more than a million but we will continue until we get the maximum number.
How many that maximum number?
There are 30 million people in this country. If we can get even a third of that, it is enough.
Are you optimistic can reach that number?
We will see, people didn't see before. Now they see what the leaders have been done. Within two months, one million people have signed, giving their IC numbers. You can check whether this is real or not real.
What is the alternative if the King refuse to take a firm action?
We will see whether it fails or not.
I see there is no solidity in this campaign because in some rallies Nurul Izzah and Wan Azizah skipped the rally that you attended. What is your comment?
Even Bersih at a demonstration asking Najib should remove but he is still there. After the demonstration of about a hundred thousands people, nothing happen until now.
Why in your plan there is no candidate to replace Najib if he resigns?
The candidate will be chosen according to the law in this country. As much as we do not like Najib, to refuse the law we would not do that. In Malaysia, the party with the biggest number of members of parliament, they have a right to choose whoever becomes the leader. So, if Najib is no longer there, whoever from the biggest party they will determine who will replace him.
Do you mean the candidate must be from UMNO?
He can be from UMNO, he can be from others. UMNO has the biggest number of members of parliament, but the majority is being up of UMNO and many major parties. So, they will have to decide.
You are working together with the opposition to remove Najib. If you succeed, why you should not choose the new leader from your side?
Because we don't have the majority, the opposition don't have the majority.
But if the new leader comes from their side that means he is from the same side with Najib. Why do you still believe in them?
I know, but when they choose they must realize that if they choose the wrong people, they will face the same problem as Najib faces.
Do you think it will happen like that?
It is something we can't tell now, but we have to do something. We can't just sit down and do nothing.
Some analysts say this is your last battle. Will you fight totally?
This is not my battle. This is the people's battle. This is the citizens' battle. I alone can not do anything. It is the citizens who sign the Declaration. It is their battle because they are going to live here. I will go but they will leave here, their children will live here, and their grandchildren will live here.
What happens will effect their children because now the borrowing is so much that for 30 years the people will have to pay.
Critics said this is like the elites battle. What is your comment about that?
This (Citizen Declaration) is signed by the people on the ground. In the kampoong they are from below but you must have somebody to lead. You can't expect somebody down there to lead.
There must be a leader, a leader must be credible before the people rally around the leader. In any country, even in the Philippine or in Brazil, there must be a leader. The leader must be well known, must have a credibility before people will do anything.
So that is the reason for you to involve in this campaign?
Yes, yes, not just me but a lot of other leaders. They come from parties, NGOs, some groups. It is not me alone. Alone, I can't do this thing.
Are there many pressures for you to lead this campaign?
They asked me to lead this campaign but this is a movement which is started by a lot of leaders, not me alone.
In his remarks at the celebration of 70th UMNO anniversary, Najib implicitly said you betrayed the party already raised you as a big leader. What is your response on that accusation?
He betrayed the party because he is not following the struggle of the party. He is not working for the people, the country, and the religion. He is only working for himself. And for that, he has taken money in his account which is wrong.
He must explain where he got the money and how he spent the money. We have checked on how he spent the money. To buy things for his wife, to have very big wealthy from this money. So, he betrayed UMNO. The party is no longer holding the objectives that the party was own.
I know because I was there during the formation of the party. He wasn't there. I was there and I know the struggle of the party is for the people, for the country, for the religion. He is struggling only to stay in power, to become the prime minister. The whole struggle is about to become the prime minister. Once he became the primes minister, he abuses the law.
Some critics said your successor Abdullah Badawi is your guy, but your influence could not control Najib. How is your response on that?
Abdullah, when he found the people do not like him and he performed very badly in the election, was willing to resign. But Najib doesn't want to resign even the whole country against him.
All leaders must resign. The first prime minister Tengku Abdul Rahman, he resigned when he found that he was no longer popular. Tun Razak died, Tun Hussein died. I resigned, Abdullah resigned. Why can't Najib resign? He is very unpopular, more unpopular than anybody else.
In the Malaysian history?
In the Malaysian history, yes.
Do you think this is the best moment to remove Najib because if failed he can make consolidation for the next election?
If he goes to the next election and he leads the party, he will lose. He will lose.
Are you very sure for that?
He will lose unless you closed your eyes. Yo go anywhere in Malaysia, you ask any taxi driver, they can tell you that they don't like Najib. They want him to step down.
During your lifetime, you always be with the regime side. How is your feeling now for being an opposition?
I am not in the opposition. I only want to remove Najib because Najib is doing a lot of damages to this country. He should be removed. Who rules after him, whether from UMNO or BN (Barisan Nasional), is not my concern.
The image of Islam is already damaged by the rising of ISIS and that always recycle. Before by Al-Qaidah and islamic fundamentalism. How do you explain about this?
It is not about islamic fundamentalism. If they say it is islamic fundamentalism, they will do good things. Because fundamentally, the Quran teach us to do what is good, what is right, not to fight each other. To regard each other as brothers, not to kill.
That's what the Quran teach us, but they are not following the teaching of Islam. they call themselves muslim but they are not following the teaching of Islam.
You can see this is not a religious war, this is a political war. It started because of the creation of the state of Israel ought of Arab land. That was the trigger.
So, because of that they want to get it back but they are weak. They don't have big army, something like that to fight. They tried initially when Syria, Egypt, and Jordan to fight against Israel, but Israel was supported by Europe and America, and they lost. So, they can not fight by conventional war.
They have to resort to guerilla war, unconventional war. Of course, it is very cruel because they kill people. But conventional war also kill and bomb more people. Conventional war is also a kind of terrorism. This is what is happening.
I condemn ISIS because it is not islamic, but on the other hand until the European realize the reason for the war the frustation of the muslim in that area and try to remove the courses, there will be only escalations.
The IS (Islamic State) is a terrible thing which put muslim to a shame. As long as the problem of Israel is not resolved then there will be an escalation in the future. Now they are already in Europe. They are bombing Paris, Brussels.
All the countries in the world are now vulnerable. Until you resolve the course of this thing, you are going to see an escalation in the future, of the cruelty, perpetrated by these guerillas and also the extent of the operation. Now they have reached Europe, they can do a lot of damages in Europe and many other countries. I think it will spread.
Even countries, like Malaysia, we have a lot of tourists coming to this country. We can't examine every tourist. We have 24 million tourists coming to Malaysia every year. We can not stop them supposing they coming and they kill some people. I mean some Americans.
We can't stop, this will happen. This is what is going to happen until they solve the problem of Israel. The Arabs agree on two state solution but Israel doesn't want it. They don't even want to recognize the state of Palestine. They call it the Palestinian Authority. They have occupied the Palestinian land, they have to go back to their land if it is going to be resolved.
But don't you think the violences in Middle East caused by sectarian violence between Sunni and Syiah?
No, no. Even in Iran before there was Sunni and Syiah and they were not fighting. This idea about Sunni and Syiah division is created by the Americans. You look on previous newspapers, we don't talk about Sunni and Syiah. They are muslims.
But Americans start talking about these are good people, they are Sunni. They are bad people, they are Syiah. And then they supply arms, they train these people and they are fighting.
You look at the IS, they have sophisticated weapons. Where do they get it? They can not make. Somebody supplies them and looks like American weapons.
But we see the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran in that region?
Before they don't fight each other and now they are fighting each other. Did you hear about Sunni and Syiah in Saudi Arabia fighting each other before? In Syria? No.
In Syria, Basyar is Syiah, very small group, and yet Syria was a very prosperous country. I went there. No fighting, nothing happen. Muslim, Christian, Syiah, Sunni, all live together. There are no fightings.
But now they are fighting because the Americans say the Syiah people are very bad, they are siding with Iran and they want to conquer the world. I mean this is American propaganda but the muslims are very stupid. They listen to this propaganda, they fight each other. And the Americans are crappling, the Europeans are crappling, the Jews are crappling.
The IS claimed attack the enemy of muslim but they don't attack Israel. The attack only muslims.