I was on track to resolving 1MDB’s debts: Najib
The Pakatan Harapan administration had been so keen to target him and the outgoing Barisan Nasional government over the 1MDB scandal that it jeopardised diplomatic relations with several countries.
(The Vibes) – Ex-PM points finger at Perikatan, Pakatan administrations for bungling projects, severing ties that could have brought in billions
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak continues to deny full responsibility for the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal as he feels he was denied the chance to resolve the huge debts incurred by the sovereign wealth fund.
“I couldn’t be held responsible for everything. You can imagine, how could I conspire with Goldman Sachs, with AmBank, with all the other auditing companies, for example?
“They must have done a lot wrong to be fined to that extent. There is no evidence to say that I collaborated with these entities to cheat 1MDB or the Malaysian government,” he told The Vibes in an exclusive interview recently.
Najib also trained his guns on the Perikatan Nasional administration for upending the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR) and Bandar Malaysia projects, which could have brought in billions to aid in resolving the debt.
“As I said, I wanted to resolve it. With the assets we had, we could have easily handled the 1MDB debt. Once we had handled the 1MDB debt, then the process of taking action against those responsible would ensue.
“But my priority was to get back the money. And that’s why I came up with the 500-acre (202ha) Bandar Malaysia project. That project would have brought us billions and it was supposed to be the terminus for the HSR project.
“If you want to maximise the value of the land, the HSR terminus has to be there but, unfortunately, (the government) changed the whole scope of the project.
“The current government changed the whole scope of the HSR, which, to me, really affected this plan for us to integrate these two economies together.
“Both countries felt it would have been a game changer for Malaysia and Singapore. The long-term benefits would have been simply enormous but, unfortunately, we shot ourselves in the foot.
“That (move) not only affected the future viability of that project itself but Bandar Malaysia (as well). It would have been a goldmine and, with 1MDB’s assets, you could have easily resolved its debt position,” he added.
The HSR bilateral agreement was officially terminated after Malaysia and Singapore agreed to let the deal lapse on December 31 last year.
As a result, Malaysia had paid RM320.27 million to Singapore for costs incurred for the development of the project and the extension of its suspension.
Najib, who is also Pekan MP, also reiterated his confidence of being able to resolve 1MDB’s debts had he not had to resign from his post as prime minister.
“Let’s talk about that. Who was the prime minister overseeing the foreign exchange loss? (The) RM33 billion loss. Did he resign?” Najib said, alluding to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the BNM forex scandal of the 1990s.
“No, there is no practice in Malaysia to resign but I would have resigned if I was unable to do anything (about 1MDB), but I wanted to resolve the problem.”
Botched diplomatic ties
Meanwhile, Najib said the Pakatan Harapan administration had been so keen to target him and the outgoing Barisan Nasional government over the 1MDB scandal that it jeopardised diplomatic relations with several countries.
During his tenure, he said global leaders had been very receptive towards Malaysia, a result of him developing personal relationships with them, in addition to strengthening formal relationships.
“I spent a lot of time not only developing the formal but also the personal side because, when a leader treats you like a friend, a lot of things can happen, things that you don’t expect them to do.
“So, I had excellent relations with the presidents of the United States – both (Barack) Obama and later Trump. I had excellent relations with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and all the Asean leaders as well – President Joko Widodo, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and, of course, in the Middle East with King Abdullah and King Salman, and that was a relationship Malaysia benefited from.
“Unfortunately, that has gone sour, quite a bit, and one of the reasons why it went sour is because they (the PH administration) didn’t honour the contracts.”
Najib cited the sudden cancellation of the King Salman’s Centre for International Peace in August 2018 as among PH’s missteps that failed to ensure cordial and trustworthy diplomatic ties with other countries.
“For example, the PH government cancelled the King Salman Centre for International Peace without even sending a letter to inform them.
“How rude can you be in terms of international diplomacy? But that happened. You (PH) cancelled contracts with China. You don’t honour these international contracts.
“And when you don’t honour international contracts, how do people feel towards Malaysia? By right, an incoming government must honour previous government contacts because they are the contracts of the Malaysian, not the BN, government.
“Then, people would have a sense that Malaysia is a country that honours its contracts, a country we can do business with, a country that respects international conventions and laws. But unfortunately, because of personal vendettas and wanting to blame the BN government, the country suffered.
“Therefore, this is a bad example of how a modern-day democracy should work,” he said.
On claims by PH that the contracts made by the BN government were not honoured because it had put Malaysia at a disadvantage, Najib dismissed them, saying the majority of the contracts have been reinstated.
“As you know, these contracts have been reinstated; the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL) contract, for example, has been reinstated.
“If you want to tweak the contract, fair enough, but you don’t make a bizarre move like changing the route of the ECRL from KL to Bentong. You bring it down south to Jelebu and up again.
“It is a very bizarre change, and you say it is overpriced and later on, when the facts come out, it was not overpriced so, unfortunately, they played politics.
“The facts don’t speak for themselves towards what they were accusing the BN government of and so, I think we had to put it in proper perspective,” he said.
Najib said PH also bungled the move anyway by failing to ensure prosperous diplomatic ties with the UAE.
“This is it: I needed to be in office to resolve the problem, so this is why I went into this supplementary agreement with the UAE to retrieve the funds but, unfortunately, when PH came in, they dishonoured that agreement.
“Otherwise, by December 2020, we would have resolved US$3.5 billion (RM14.4 billion) with the UAE. But instead, (PH) chose to go to the courts, which hampered, or undermined, our relationship with the UAE.
“As a result of that, billions of dollars flowed into Indonesia but not to Malaysia. Why? Because we hurt the feelings of the UAE government.
“Of course, (there was also) that insane disclosure of my conversation with the UAE crown prince, which has never been done anywhere in the world.
“Conversation between two leaders can never be disclosed. And this was disclosed by one of our agencies. It is a totally irresponsible action that led to the UAE reacting in this manner against us,” he said, referring to former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission chief Latheefa Koya’s reveal of several recordings during a January 2020 press conference.
Najib contended that he went into a supplementary agreement with the UAE in an effort not to undermine the country’s international relations.
“I wanted to resolve it in a way where I would keep our international relations on a strong footing but, at the same time, find a solution to the 1MDB problem and we did it.
“We did the supplementary agreement.”