Malaysia's Najib takes pop at Mahathir on Singapore trip
SINGAPORE – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak took a swipe on Tuesday, January 16, at ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad, his opponent in upcoming elections, saying on a trip to Singapore he did not want a return to "confrontational diplomacy."
Mahathir, who ruled Malaysia for more than two decades and is now making another run at the top job at the age of 92, frequently traded barbs with Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew during his time in office.
Najib used a two-day trip to Singapore for annual talks with his counterpart Lee Hsien Loong to highlight the good state of relations between Kuala Lumpur and the city-state -- and how bad they were under Mahathir.
Najib and Mahathir, the opposition coalition's candidate, are due to face off in elections which must be called by August.
During a joint press conference with Lee, Najib said both countries had a "very productive" relationship and he believed in promoting good ties.
"That is the position of our government. The other side may have other ideas," he said, in a veiled reference to Mahathir.
"We certainly do not want to return to the era of confrontational diplomacy and barbed rhetoric between our two countries... It is an era that we want to forget."
Kuala Lumpur and its neighbour have often had a spiky relationship since Singapore was expelled from Malaysia after a short-lived union in the 1960s following independence from Britain.
However ties have mostly been warm in recent years.
During Tuesday's talks, the leaders signed an agreement for a new rail link between Singapore and the Malaysian border town of Johor Bahru, which is expected to be completed by 2024 and is aimed at easing traffic on the main causeway between the neighbours.
They insisted whatever they outcome of the forthcoming elections, the deal would not be affected, with Lee describing it as a "binding agreement".
Najib is at the center of a major corruption scandal, amid allegations that billions of dollars were looted from a state investment fund, 1MDB, that he founded. Both Najib and the fund deny any wrongdoing.
Mahathir came out of retirement to take on Najib, his former protege, after the allegations emerged. – Rappler.com