Dr M: Taking China’s side? It’s free speech

Yiswaree Palansamy
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed speaks to reporters during the opening of the Asia Oil and Gas Conference 2019 in Kuala Lumpur June 24, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today disagreed that he was sending a message to the US by favouring China in certain matters.

Dr Mahathir said that he simply does not like being force-fed with the Western propaganda, adding that China on the other hand “is a bit more sensitive to our feelings.”

“I don’t like the old idea of cooking something up in the West and then asking us to accept them.

“China is a bit more sensitive to our feelings,” he was reported saying in a Bloomberg interview.

Despite some rough starts with China, notably over the initial cancellation of infrastructure projects worth billions of ringgit in which China has a large stake, Dr Mahathir has in recent days emerged as a strong ally of the republic.

Last month, amid the ongoing trade war between China and the US, after the ban of telecommunications brand Huawei in the US, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia will make use of Huawei’s technology as much as possible.

Nikkei Asian Review reported that while countries including Japan and Australia were avoiding the use of Huawei equipment as they introduced new 5G mobile networks, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia had no intention of shunning the Chinese company.

Following Dr Mahathir’s statement of support for its beleaguered handphone maker Huawei, Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian declared his country’s eternal friendship to Malaysia.

Bai also said China will always help Malaysia in their common pursuit to develop technologically.

In his interview with Bloomberg, Dr Mahathir said that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition also underestimated the challenges of governing the country, before taking over the mantle from Barisan Nasional (BN).

“I underestimated because we were on the outside and we didn’t get any information on what was happening on the inside.

“We are having a very tough time dealing with damages in the finances as well as the crimes that were committed,” Dr Mahathir added.

He also weighed in on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial saga with international banker Goldman Sachs, saying that the banking titan had offered only “a little compensation” as opposed to the “huge killing” it made with 1MDB.

Last week, Dr Mahathir revealed that Goldman Sachs had offered Malaysia RM1 billion to settle the 1MDB case out of court.

The New York-based bank is accused of misleading investors when it helped 1MDB raise US$6.5 billion (RM27 billion) through bond deals in 2012 and 2013, while allegedly knowing that the funds would be misappropriated.

The Malaysian courts set June 24 for pretrial hearing and had issued summonses to Goldman Sachs Hong Kong and London branches. Only the Singapore unit of Goldman Sachs has appeared at a pre-trial hearing in a Kuala Lumpur court as a respondent in March.

The 1MDB scandal played a major role in the electoral defeat that ended former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s near decade in power, and a new government led by Dr Mahathir promptly re-opened corruption investigations.

Najib, who has consistently denied wrongdoing, is facing multiple criminal charges, mostly linked to 1MDB, and has been barred from leaving the country.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has estimated that a total of US$4.5 billion was allegedly misappropriated by high-level 1MDB fund officials and their associates between 2009 and 2014, including some of the funds that Goldman Sachs helped raise.

Malaysia has said it was seeking up to US$7.5 billion in reparations from Goldman Sachs, including US$600 million in fees paid to the bank for the bond issues.

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