PETALING JAYA - The action of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in issuing a statement to the New York Times is "regrettable", said Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
Anifah, who issued an open letter to the New York Times on Thursday night, said "it is irresponsible of any citizen, let alone a former prime minister, to spread lies and distortions about state owned companies", referring to the government investment arm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Here is Anifah's statement.
OPEN LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR
1. It is regrettable to see Tun Mahathir seeking to undermine his own country in the international media as part of a personal political vendetta.
2. It is irresponsible of any citizen, let alone a former prime minister, to spread lies and distortions about state owned companies - saying for example that RM42 billion is missing from 1MDB to create public anxiety, when in fact these are audited debts backed by RM51 billion assets. These reckless claims have affected market sentiment towards Malaysia.
3. Furthermore, it is telling that he continues to mount his attacks, rather than wait for the findings of the enquiries currently being undertaken by Malaysia's central bank, Auditor General, and parliament's bipartisan Public Accounts Committee. This shows that Tun Mahathir is not interested in answers from the appropriate lawful authorities. Rather, he is just using 1MDB as an excuse to topple the serving prime minister, Najib Tun Razak.
4. And all because his personal demands, as Tun Mahathir himself has acknowledged, are not being met. Prime Minister Najib, as Malaysia's democratically elected leader, will do what he thinks is right for the nation, and will not allow rule by proxy.
5. Tun Mahathir told the New York Times that Umno "lacks vision and talented people", that it "has become a repository of patronage-seeking politicians", and that members "try to keep out people who are more intelligent than themselves".
But it is Tun Mahathir who led the party for 22 years. It was he that, during his time, worked to cultivate 'yes men' and entrench his position - even introducing a quota system for the Umno presidency to prevent challengers - rather than bringing in talent and strengthening the party. It is Prime Minister Najib who democratised the party constitution to make it far easier to challenge him for his job.
6. For Tun Mahathir to accuse Prime Minister Najib of acts "verging on criminal" is simply outrageous, and entirely false. It is a measure of the reforms put in place under Prime Minister Najib's administration that Tun Mahathir has the freedom to be so vocally critical of the party and government he once led.
7. But Dr Mahathir is abusing that freedom, and his privileged standing as a former prime minister, to indulge in reckless and baseless personal smears against Prime Minister Najib and his family. Most Malaysians would rather see Dr Mahathir retire gracefully than continue to damage the standing of his own country for personal political gain.