MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Najib Razak has posted FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on his blog in an unprecedented move to silence increasingly loud questions about his leadership by critics such as former premier Mahathir Mohamad.
Datuk Seri Najib's lengthy posting, while not naming Tun Dr Mahathir, responded to allegations raised by the long-serving former premier concerning the murder of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu, debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the so-called Crooked Bridge to Singapore and cash handouts to poor Malaysians.
The systematic responses on 13 issues offered little new information - except legal reasons why the Causeway could not be demolished in favour of the crooked bridge proposed by Dr Mahathir. But it was Mr Najib's most comprehensive rebuttal yet in what analysts see as a battle to control information dispensed to the public.
In the posting on NajibRazak.com yesterday, he said the Attorney-General had advised that pipes along the Johor Causeway belong to Singapore's national water agency PUB, according to the 1960s Johor-Singapore water agreements, and that any changes to them without PUB approval would be in breach of international law.
"There is no question of whether we have enough courage to go up against Singapore," he wrote.
He also went on the offensive, saying "someone who used to continually criticise the international media as being biased now suddenly believes and takes their arguments as the truth", with regard to allegations of rising corruption.
On claims that abuse of public funds had seen 1MDB's debt rise to RM42 billion (S$16 billion) in just five years, he argued that "we need to get the information from legitimate sources (like the Auditor-General) and not third-party news portals or online blogs that might have hidden agendas".
Besides public speeches, Dr Mahathir has used his blog to ratchet up pressure on Mr Najib, saying the latter's continued leadership of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) would cause it to lose power for the first time ever. He has called for Mr Najib's resignation.
Mr Najib often preferred to appear on national television to address current issues, but last month's live hour-long interview on a government-controlled channel was panned by analysts and critics for failing to allay doubts for which he has now given more detailed responses on his blog.
Mr Ibrahim Suffian of independent pollster Merdeka Centre said "the best way for the PM to regain political capital is to focus on working on issues affecting the country (but) at the same time he can't keep silent on issues raised".
As he could not keep repeating explanations, the FAQs provide "a polite way of saying 'talk to the hand' ".
This article was first published on May 18, 2015.
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