Dr Mahathir Mohamad has once again trained his guns on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's wealth.
Despite having spent 29 years in government, the former prime minister said he could not match the extravagant lifestyle of his protege-turned-nemesis.
"He (Najib) is paid the prime minister's salary, which I know is far smaller than what business executives get.
"But the government pays allowances, the electricity and water bills, transportation, home, and so forth, so the salary can all be saved and spent.
"But still, the lavish lifestyle must cost a packet. It must be more than what I saved after 29 years in the government," Mahathir said in a blog posting today.
His latest salvo comes amid allegations that US$700 million of 1MDB funds were channelled into Najib's private bank accounts.
He added that Najib's wealth was of course a secret but asked whether the authorities had probed into this.
"I just want to ask, has the income tax people investigated the source of the money and the tax paid," he said.
The former prime minister lamented that there was selectivity with regard to the tax authority.
Everyone should be investigated
Mahathir pointed out when he was previously sacked from Umno, the taxmen had swooped on him but several prominent individuals spending lavishly today do not get similar scrutiny.
"We talk about equality before the law. In this country even the rulers are subject to certain laws. It is the essence of justice.
"Everyone who should be investigated by government agencies must be investigated. There should be no discrimination," he said.
The New York Times had in February highlighted Najib's family wealth, including their jet-setting ways and the prime minister's wife Rosmah Mansor’s penchant for luxury goods.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) raised eyebrows when it attributed Najib's wealth to family inheritance.
This prompted Najib's brothers to issue a statement, stressing that their father Abdul Razak Hussein lived a frugal life when he was prime minister and any suggestions otherwise tainted his memory.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad is confident that the “Save Malaysia” movement will have enough support to pressure the country’s traditional rulers to act against Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Speaking at Save Malaysia’s first people’s congress held behind closed doors on Sunday (Mar 27), Dr Mahathir said he is confident that the movement will collect 1 million signatures before the end of the year.
The 90-year-old statesman has been leading the campaign to oust the prime minister, saying it is in order save the country from becoming a failed state. Dr Mahathir earlier this month cobbled together an unlikely alliance of former political foes including former government and opposition leaders, as well as civil rights activists to form the movement.
While the consensus was to remove Mr Najib, whom they blame for the country's institutional breakdown, there were also heightened calls for the release of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Former bar council president Ambiga Sreenevasan stressed that it was high time for a reset in the country’s political system and urged government leaders and civil servants to come on board.
“If you turn your back on us, you may save yourself but if you stand with us, you can help save the nation for your children and grandchildren. I invite all, particularly those in power, to join us and be on the right side of history,” she told the congress, which attracted about 2,000 participants.
But few government leaders have spoken up so far, and those who dare to face expulsion from their party.
Dr Mahathir quit UMNO last month after he failed to gather enough support from within the ruling party to oust party president Najib. He is now urging the people to sign the Save Malaysia petition in order to step up pressure on Mr Najib.
Said Dr Mahathir: "People are afraid to sign because this government frightens people. They arrest the people but they cannot take action against 1 million people, can they?"
The Save Malaysia movement has collected more than 140,000 signatures since its launch on Mar 4.
“I had urged Pak Lah to choose Najib. I wrote to him and made many speeches. In the end Najib became the Prime Minister,” Dr Mahathir told about 1,000 people attending the People’s Congress here today.
He said he was confident with his decision to choose Najib as he was the son of Tun Abdul Razak Hussein (Malaysia’s second prime minister).
“I became the prime minister because of Razak. I felt obliged. I never expected to be picked by Razak ,” he said.
He recounted that when he finally decided to retire in 2003, he wanted to appoint Najib as his successor but Najib was still young.
“So I decided to pick Pak Lah for a term. But Pak Lah won with a big majority. He decided to stay on. But then he did badly in 2008,” Dr Mahathir said.
“Finally, when Najib became the Prime Minister succeeding Abdullah, I was so happy. My wife was happy too. He is after all the son of Razak. But unfortunately there is a lot of difference between him and his father.”
Dr Mahathir then recounted how Najib snubbed him after taking over in 2009 and how the two fell out over disagreements on certain projects and relations with Singapore.
Najib did not keep in touch with him for six months after taking over, Dr Mahathir said. “Then one day he invited me for dinner. I brought my wife because Rosmah was there”, referring to the PM’s wife Rosmah Mansor.
“I asked him why he failed to do a few things. One of the matters discussed was the crooked bridge from Johor to Singapore. He answered that there was an agreement. That is a lie. I have been the prime minister for 22 years. I know all the agreements. He did not speak to me after that.”
Dr Mahathir said he was not upset with Najib for failing to build the crooked bridge but because he allowed Singapore to dictate terms. “It is not in their territory. That is why it is crooked. But he went to ask for Singapore’s permission. Why? I was disappointed. Why was he bowing to Singapore? We are an independent country.”
He said Malaysia now wanted to build a High Speed Rail from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore “but Singapore says cannot”
He asked: “Are we under Singapore? That is what disappoints me.”
Dr Mahathir said he told Najib that if he garnered less seats than Abdullah (in the 2013 General Election) he should resign.
“He didn’t. But I continued to support him. But then he used money to garner the people’s support. He used BR1M. He wants to be popular, using government money.
“The Rakyat wants to work, not to be beggars. They want work. Graduates are jobless,” added Mahathir.
He said there was corruption, especially after the scandal in the government investment company 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
There was no way he would support a corrupt leader, Dr Mahathir said.
And this, coming from someone whom the world once suspect, is the source of all Malaysian corruption.
Strange. These enemies are now friends. And the so-called friends are now arch enemies that need to be removed!
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad held a press conference with opposition politicians and civil society leaders to kick-start a movement to oppose Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Friday. The press conference held at the Universiti Malaya Alumni Association clubhouse will Tun Mahathir and his once rivals in the opposition signing a declaration seeking the removal of Najib.
An array of Malaysian political leaders past and present including former foes stood together on Friday (March 4) to demand Prime Minister Najib Razak's resignation from office at a press conference chaired by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In an unprecedented show of solidarity across the political divide, civil society leaders and opposition politicians joined their former rival Dr Mahathir to sign a declaration backing his movement to seek the removal of Mr Najib.
"We're not here as representatives of parties and NGOs (non-government organisations). We are here as citizens of Malaysia," Dr Mahathir told reporters.
The signed declaration by a total of 58 representatives on Friday entailed four demands. They included the removal of Mr Najib as Prime Minister through legal non-violent means, the removal of those who acted in concert with Mr Najib, the repeal of laws that violate fundamental rights, and the restoration of institutions whose integrity has been undermined such as the police, Bank Negara, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission(MACC) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Mr Muhyiddin said at the press conference yesterday that he is staying on in Umno to help "fix the party" from the inside.
Dr Mahathir had on Monday (Feb 29) quit the ruling Umno party, saying he could no longer stay in Umno because the party had turned into an organisation dedicated to supporting the scandal-plagued Najib.
He had also proposed the setting up of a core group to oust Mr Najib, and the Opposition parties had in recent days indicated their willingness to cooperate with the former premier.
Among those who were in attendance at Friday's meeting were opposition heavyweights, including Democratic Action Party leader Lim Kit Siang, Parti Keadilan Rakyat Deputy President Azmin Ali and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu.
Opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) MP Mahfuz Omar and PAS elections director Datuk Mustafa Ali also attended as concerned citizens, even though PAS had said it would opt out of the core group.
The opposition figures were flanked by their old rivals from Barisan Nasional who have been outspoken in their criticism of Mr Najib. They included Dr Mahathir's son and former Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, former Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who was suspended from the party last week, and former Malaysian Chinese Association president Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik.
Other members of the core group included former Cabinet minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim and prominent voices in Malaysian civil society, including the leaders of the Bersih electoral reform group Ambiga Sreenevasan and Maria Chin Abdullah.
Mr Najib has been under pressure to step down since last year over the scandal surrounding state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) amid allegations that funds from 1MDB had been channelled into his private accounts. He has said he has not used the funds for personal gain, and has been cleared of any criminal offence or corruption.
Dismissing the declaration, the government in a statement said the move by Dr Mahathir and his allies "demonstrated the depth of their political opportunism and desperation". "There is an existing mechanism to change the Government and Prime Minister. It's called a general election. And it is the only mechanism that is lawful, democratic, and fulfils the people's will," the statement added.