KUALA LUMPUR — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad continued his criticism of Forest City today, claiming that the mammoth development project in Johor will leech money and jobs to foreign companies while bringing in hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

The country’s longest-serving prime minister also challenged Forest City to publicly publish documents detailing its transactions and deals, maintaining that he is unafraid of being accused of lèse majesté for going against Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar.

“Looking East is not about asking the countries of the East to buy land in Malaysia, develop and sell to the people from these countries. Yes, we have encouraged foreigners to make Malaysia their second home. But their numbers are very small.

“Looking East is not about mass immigration of hundreds of thousands. It is about Malaysians learning about how these Eastern countries developed themselves,” Dr Mahathir said in a letter published by English daily The Star.

The “Look East” policy was advocated by Dr Mahathir when he took office in 1981, to encourage Malaysian students in Japan who can bring back knowledge and acquire Japanese cultural virtues such as work ethics, discipline and punctuality.

“FDI is about investment in the manufacturing industry. Malaysian companies will construct the building and Malaysians will work in the industries. They will acquire skills and start their own manufacturing business,” he said, using the acronym for foreign direct investment policy that he championed during his administration.

“Malaysian contractors are completely capable of building all kinds of buildings and [developing] land. We don’t need foreigners to do this,” he added, claiming that 90 per cent or more of new buildings in Malaysia are constructed by Malaysian firms, to be bought by Malaysians.

In comparison, Dr Mahathir said money will flow out of the country when foreigners buy properties in Forest City, with the promotional scheme employed there meaning no profit will be made in Malaysia, leading to no taxes paid to Putrajaya.

Yesterday in an interview published by The Star, Sultan Ibrahim had accused Dr Mahathir of fear mongering by playing racial politics that he claimed had no place in the southern state.

Dr Mahathir had previously claimed that more than 700,000 Chinese nationals will be brought into Forest City, alleging that the Chinese citizens would be given identity cards to enable them to vote in the coming general election.

The 1,386-hectare Forest City encompasses the development of facilities for business, tourism, hotel, residence, services and others, built on four man-made islands in Iskandar Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir has since explained in The Star today that he was merely quoting international business news outfit Bloomberg over the details of Forest City, which has yet to be challenged nor denied.

“I admit I am at a disadvantage here. While people can say what they like about me, and I welcome their freedom to say so, I hope that in responding to His Royal Highness’ challenge I will not be arrested and jailed without trial.

“If it is with trial, I welcome the arrest,” Dr Mahathir said.