KUALA LUMPUR: Tycoon Robert Kuok was never a target of attacks during the former Barisan Nasional administration, says former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
According to Najib, he regarded the 95-year-old tycoon as a family friend and had no reason to publicly attack Kuok.
"I was never against Kuok… But, he (Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz) might have intended to defend me but I was not in an attack mode against Kuok.
"It was a complete misunderstanding. He (Kuok) has been a family friend for years with my parents and I know his children as well," he said to reporters at the Parliament lobby on Tuesday (July 16).
On Monday (July 15), Nazri told reporters in Parliament that his public attacks against Kuok prior to the 14th General Election was to defend Najib, who was then prime minister.
The war of words between the Umno leaders erupted after Najib said he was told by MCA that the decline in Chinese support was partly due to Nazri's disparaging remarks against Kuok.
Elaborating further, Najib said his remarks against Kuok was to point out that all Malaysian tycoons were made rich by the former Barisan government.
"Whether Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, Kuok, or Tan Sri Vincent Tan, you name it, every single one of them was given something by the government.
"But, of course, the credit goes to them because they knew how to make money. They didn't flaunt what was given to them.
"I'm not saying that they don't deserve it. I'm just saying that there must be some recognition that the key was given to them by the Barisan government."
At the same time, Najib reiterated that it was Nazri's disparaging remarks that caused Chinese support towards Barisan to dwindle.
However, Najib said that it is time to bury the hatchet and learn from mistakes.
"Whatever it is, we learn from our mistakes. Most importantly, I want to move forward. We made mistakes in the past but we want to move forward so that Barisan will be the choice of the people," he added.
Last February, Najib said some of the country's richest people owed their success to opportunities created through policies implemented under the Barisan administration.
"If we look at the list of names of the richest people in Malaysia, such as Kuok, who gave him the key to become rice and sugar king? It was given to him by the ruling (Barisan) government," Najib was quoted as saying.