PETALING JAYA – Many people were stunned at the invitation of the Chinese government to former Malaysian premier Najib Razak to present the keynote address during the Beijing-sponsored World Chinese Economic Forum (WCEF) here this morning.
When the news broke yesterday, there was disbelief – both from Najib’s supporters and his haters. When it was later confirmed that he would be speaking tomorrow (Monday, 27 Dec), there was jubilation on the part of his supporters and disgust from his haters, as expected.
However, when Malaysia’s 6th premier presented his speech, many lauded his boldness in using the Forum platform to point out what went wrong with China-Malaysia bilateral relations when the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government was at the helm. This was the first time since he left the premiership in 2018 that he openly attacked his nemesis Mahathir Mohamad on the world stage, although there were mentions in media reports and his Facebook posts during the past three years.
He hit out at criticisms of his dealings with China when he was the premier, saying that for all the accusations made by the opposition that he was putting the country’s sovereignty at risk, it was quick to change its stance once it ascended to power.
He said the critics were wrong to suggest that the deals with China under the Belt and Road Initiative did not help the country, as projects like the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, the East Coast Rail Link, the Digital Free Trade Zone, and the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail were slated to have billions of ringgit in economic benefits.
Najib said the period when Pakatan Harapan was in power was “one of the most fraught periods in Malaysia-China relations,” as it had put on hold many of the deals he had struck as the prime minister.
“These moves rattled the confidence of the Chinese investors.”
He added that the results of PH’s stand were clear, with foreign direct investments under its tenure far below what the country had attracted when he was in charge.
“Although the ECRL project was restored under new terms and conditions, the PH government sang a different tune as compared to pre-GE14, finally admitting that Chinese investment and technology capabilities were opportunities to drive Malaysia’s economic development.
“The Forest City project was also made into political propaganda to attack me. Prior to 2018, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad claimed that the Barisan Nasional government was forsaking the country’s sovereignty to China, that we were offering 700,000 citizenships to these Chinese nationals to move to Forest City.
“Clearly, an outrageous, racist and abhorrent lie. He even promised to cancel the project should they win power in the upcoming elections then.”
However, after coming into power “on the back of this and other similar claims”, he said, Mahathir soon changed his tune.
“Suddenly, (PH) said the Forest City project had contributed immensely to the government, had created employment opportunities, promoted technology transfer and innovations and had benefited Malaysia’s economic growth and job creation. So much so that Mahathir even attended a ceremony to present a certificate of appreciation to the Forest City company.
“Imagine, from selling sovereignty to a certificate of appreciation within a space of a year.”
Najib took another parting shot at Mahathir while recognising the valuable contributions of Chinese Malaysians in the country’s development and their role in helping Malaysia recover economically from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Any post-pandemic recovery will count on their inherent strength to contribute to this process.
Chopsticks, Fork And Spoon
“It doesn’t matter if the Malaysian Chinese eat with chopsticks, fork and spoon or use their hands, as long as in their hearts and minds they are truly Malaysians,” he said, in an apparent reference to Mahathir’s comments that the use of chopsticks among the Chinese community was evidence of an unwillingness to assimilate to the Malaysian way of life.
NMH spoke to a couple of Malaysians on their response to Najib’s Keynote Address at today’s Forum.
Tzu P Wong, a businessman living in Sabah said that in modern times, like now, no country can live by itself, not USA, nor Europe, and certainly not Malaysia. The only country that has a better chance of self-sustaining is China. So, Najib’s wish to work closely with China is aimed at ensuring a better future for Malaysia.
“WCEF is one of the platforms for doing business with China. The reason behind the invitation extending to DSN goes beyond words. We all know these kind of platforms have backing from the Chinese government. If Najib doesn’t have any credibility with the top guns of the Chinese government, he would never have been invited,” Wong said.
He added that the invitation for Najib to present the keynote address goes way beyond the speech itself, it shows the acceptance by the Chinese business sectors and the China government of Najib as a leader who bodes well for the bilateral relations of both countries.
“This is a very rare commodity, especially at the present geopolitical scenarios. The main agenda of President Xi Jinping in the coming year for China is stability “稳”, and his government’s acceptance of Najib is because they see that only the latter can bring about stability in Malaysia as well as in Asean,” Wong concluded.
Another Malaysian Chinese who has been observing the political and economic scenario in the country, Wong Jae Senn, has this to say: I’d say that from my recent experiences of talking to some China development and oil and gas companies in Malaysia, they regard DSN as the best PM ever.
“China is the superpower of Asia. Although we have military arrangements with the United States, being a non-aligned nation, Najib was smart in forging friendship and bilateral relations between Malaysia and every other country. The mainland Chinese actually admired that.
“No other prime minister had given so much to the Malaysian Chinese community and yet, the Malaysian Chinese turned their backs on him because of opposition propaganda. Hopefully, his WCEF speech about what makes Malaysian Chinese truly Malaysian will remind us about how fair he was to all races as the PM, and the tremendous efforts he did in improving racial unity and government efficiency under the 1Malaysia banner,” Jae Senn added. – New Malaysia Herald
Datin Hasnah is the co-founder and CEO of New Malaysia Herald based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
With an extensive background in mass communication and journalism, she works on building up New Malaysia Herald and it’s partner sites. A tireless and passionate evangalist, she champions autism studies and support groups.
Datin Hasnah is also the Editor in Chief of New Malaysia Herald.