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Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had branded Mahathir Mohamad a "racist" and called him a liar for his change in position regarding the Forest City project in Johor, Malaysiakini reported.
Najib made the remark in his keynote address at the 2021 World Chinese Economic Forum on Dec. 27 at Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Popular property investment among China investors
Forest City is a US$100 billion (S$135.4 billion) joint venture by Chinese developer Country Garden and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor (KPRJ).
According to Malaysiakini, KPRJ is owned by the Johor government and the sultan.
The project was particularly popular with Chinese investors, with about two-thirds of the units having been sold to Chinese buyers in September 2018.
Malaysians made up only a fifth of the buyers.
Mahathir had also previously questioned Najib's comments on Forest City's leasehold in 2017.
While Najib had previously promised a 99-year lease on the land sold, Mahathir pointed out that the lease was freehold.
Najib had denied that he made the claim.
Forest City turned into a "political propaganda": Najib
In his keynote address, Najib claimed that Mahathir turned the Forest City project into "a political propaganda" to attack him, Malaysiakini reported.
Before Pakatan Harapan won the 2018 general election, Mahathir, who was chairman of the coalition at the time, claimed that the previous administration, Barisan Nasional, was "forsaking the country's sovereignty to China", Najib said.
Najib added that Mahathir had claimed that Malaysia was offering 700,000 citizenships to Chinese nationals to move to Forest City.
He branded Mahathir's claims as an "outrageous, racist and abhorrent lie".
Mahathir shifted stance once in power: Najib
However, once the PH was in power, Mahathir shifted his stance on the Forest City project, Najib claimed.
He pointed out that although Mahathir had initially promised to cancel the project if the PH rose to power, that did not happen.
Instead, Mahathir claimed that the project had "contributed immensely" to the government, Najib said.
He added that Mahathir claimed that the project had created employment opportunities, promoted technology transfer and innovations, and benefited Malaysia's economic growth and job creation.
Najib also pointed out that Mahathir had attended a ceremony to hand certificates of appreciation to the project's developers.
"Imagine, from (the claim of) selling sovereignty to a certificate of appreciation within a space of a year," Najib said.
Chinese investment drove Malaysia's economic development
Najib also touched on other China-related projects in Malaysia that had been suspended.
He said that Mahathir's decision to suspend the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), as well as two China-financed oil and gas pipeline projects, had "rattled the confidence of the Chinese investors' community", Malaysiakini reported.
"Although the ECRL project was restored under new terms and conditions, the Harapan government sang a different tune as compared to pre-GE14," Najib said.
He continued to say that the former PH government later "finally" admitted that Chinese investment and technological capabilities are "opportunities to drive Malaysia's economic development".
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Top images via Najib Razak/Facebook