Dr Mahathir Mohamad has used the incident where a movie producer was slapped in front of Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to illustrate how freedom of expression has been curbed.
The former premier, who was known to have little tolerance for dissenting views during his tenure, alleged that those who ask Najib questions would end up in trouble.
“This never happened during my time and the prime ministers before me. This only happens during Najib’s era … Those who speak end up in trouble. The newspapers are censored, so is TV3 and other (media).
“So when given a chance to speak, they try (to air their views), and this is the consequence and result of such attempts to speak the truth. Ask questions also cannot, (you get) beaten,” he added.
Mahathir, who was addressing netizens during a live question and answer session on Facebook, was asked about the Wednesday night incident where producer David Teo was assaulted by comedian Sulaiman Yassin, better known as Mat Over.
Sulaiman said he wanted to teach Teo some manners when speaking in front of a leader, while the producer denied that he was being rude to the prime minister.
Mahathir also said the incident had embarrassed the nation.
“I don’t know who this Mat Over is. But right after he slapped (Teo), (both of them) should have been separated. But I heard many shouting, ‘Beat David Teo’. This shamed us in front of the world, the incident happened in front of the premier,” he added.
Mahathir, who is now Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) chairperson, challenged Najib to hold another dialogue session.
“If he (Najib) dares, do it again and open it to all, we will see if anyone is afraid of being slapped,” he added.
Teo was assaulted by comedian Mat Over when he tried to pose a question to Najib during a TN50 dialogue with the entertainment industry at the PM’s residence, Seri Perdana, in Putrajaya.
Prior to that, Teo had raised his voice after he was not called upon to speak during the dialogue.
He claimed the moderator, Rosyam Nor, and Najib, had only paid attention to those in front of them, and not to the attendees who sat on the other side of the circular rostrum.
Rosyam agreed to give Teo a chance to speak after Teo agreed to calm down. However, Mat Over – walked over from behind Teo and struck the director.
Sulaiman was heard berating Teo for being “rude” to the PM.
Get back 1MDB funds
Meanwhile, Mahathir reiterated that Pakatan Harapan will do all it can to get back the 1MDB funds if it wins the next general election.
“We will ensure the 1MDB and Bandar Malaysia (fiasco) will not repeat and find ways to resolve the matter due to the abuse. We do have ideas on how to overcome the problem. We know where 1MDB funds are and who is holding the money,” he said.
“As for Bandar Malaysia, if we want to develop it, then it will be developed by local companies,” he pledged.
Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak last Saturday expressed confidence that China development giant Dalian Wanda was capable of doing great things in Bandar Malaysia, although an agreement has yet to be made.
Malaysian Malay Contractors Association (PKMM) however believed that bumiputera firms are capable of taking up the task of becoming Bandar Malaysia’s master developer.
Commenting further, Mahathir elaborated on the reasons for Najib getting closer to China.
“He wants China’s money. How to get it? He gives big contracts to China, he bought trains from China but he could not afford to pay it. So he sells (our) land to China.
“There is no money and there are debts. He can be complacent when it comes to debts owed to Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF), Retirement Fund Inc (KWAP) and Tabung Haji, but if he could not pay the banks and the international institutions, Malaysia will be declared a bankrupt.
“Then, everyone will know what he had done. If he is ousted in the general election, he would face problems,” he added. – Malaysiakini