Former prime minister Najib Razak today claimed that the Forest City development project launched in Johor Bahru in 2006 was turned into a propaganda tool by Pakatan Harapan (PH) to topple his Barisan Nasional (BN) government in the 2018 general election.
Speaking at the World Chinese Economic Forum in Petaling Jaya today, the Pekan MP also accused PH of changing its stand on the project.
He said before GE14 in 2018, Dr Mahathir Mohamad had accused BN of selling out the country’s assets to China, claiming that 700,000 Chinese nationals would be brought to Forest City and given Malaysian citizenship.
“This was clearly an outrageous, racist lie,” he said. “He even promised to cancel the project should they win power at the upcoming election.
“However, soon after the 2018 election which they won on the back of this and other outrageous claims, he began switching his stance.
“Lo and behold, they said the Forest City project had contributed immensely to the government, created employment opportunities, promoted technology transfer and benefited Malaysia’s economic growth.”
This was Najib’s first appearance at an open forum since the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court’s verdict on him in the SRC International case earlier this month.
In a unanimous decision, the appeals court had rejected Najib’s appeal against the verdict and sentence for seven counts of money laundering, criminal breach of trust and abuse of power involving RM42 million from the former 1MDB unit.
Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil who led the three-man bench comprising himself, Has Zanah Mehat and Vazeer Alam Mydin also labelled the transfer of money into Najib’s accounts as “a national embarrassment”.
Speaking today, Najib voiced disappointment in Mahathir for attending a ceremony to present certificates of appreciation to the companies involved in the Forest City development.
“Imagine, from selling sovereignty to certificates of appreciation, all within the space of a year,” he added.
The former prime minister also claimed that the transfer of federal power to PH had shaken the confidence of Chinese investors, especially when the ECRL project and two others related to oil and gas were put on hold.
He said this could be seen through the inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI) which declined to RM30.7 billion in 2018 from RM40.4 billion in 2017, BN’s last year in Putrajaya.
“In 2019, FDI inflows into Malaysia expanded relatively higher to RM32.4 billion – much lower than 2017,” he said.
“The trend once again went downwards in 2020 with a net inflow of a dismal RM14 billion – 55% lower than 2019 and the lowest since 2009.”
He also said that while the ECRL project was resumed under new terms, the PH government had again taken a different stance in admitting that the investments and technological capabilities from China offered opportunities for the country’s economic development.