Ten Years' Retired And Still Working Hard For The Country
WHILE most people will play golf, see the world, go fishing or just watch TV all day, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, on the other hand, choose to spend his retirement by going to work.
But then again, Tun Mahathir is not like everybody else.
October 31, 2013 may mark a decade since he left the office of Prime Minister of Malaysia but the man – who has made Malaysia a respected Southeast-Asian nation, never stopped thinking and speaking for the country.
Malaysia Digest found out why is this so when we were recently granted an audience with the 88-year old statesman at his Putrajaya office.
“I had hoped that when I retire I can rest and do things that I like to do, but unfortunately the political scene in this country, well, has changed (and) not for the better. I think this country is not doing so well.
“So, although I did not like to be involved in politics (even when in retirement, and) should leave the people who lead the country to do whatever they like, I find that some things (if left unchecked) (would be) damaging to the country.
“And because of that I have been involved in politics throughout the 10 years I have retired. Not directly but indirectly,” said the 88-year old, who, as always, chooses his words carefully and speaks in a measured manner and tone.
Appearing in his obligatory grey bush jacket, it seems that little has changed since he stepped out of office in 2003.
Which is a good thing, of course, for Malaysia, a nation of mere 56 years still needs the watchful, mentoring eye of a statesman of his calibre.
Mahathir’s role after retirement is seen by many akin to Singapore’s unofficial “Minister-Mentor” position in cabinet, a role created to facilitate transition in political leadership, particularly important in a Southeast-Asian nation that aspires to become a first world economy.
Does he consider himself like a Minister-Mentor for Malaysia?
“No. I don't believe in such things. I don't want to be directly involved or wield any authority but since I can influence people, perhaps with my own ideas, It is all I want (to contribute).
"If my ideas are rejected, it’s okay,” said Mahathir.
But when what’s been installed gets uninstalled, it is not OK with Mahathir.
mD Editor Onny Izwan interviewing Tun Mahathir at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya/mD“Well, a lot of things were dismantled (since I left office). I believe any new leader has a right to make his own policies and use his own methods, but unfortunately the change, the dismantling of previous policies and projects, has not been good for this country.
“And this is evidenced by the (response of the) people who used to support the government and giving the government two-thirds majority in (the general) election, now (they) have sort of rejected – well, partially rejected – the government.
“They are still winning - but winning with a small majority – (and this puts them) always under threat, that if a substantial number of members (decide to) crossover, the government may even fall. So that gives a feeling of uncertainty to the country, to the people, and this is not good.
“I had hoped that the succeeding government would strengthen the government by their policies and their activities (but this has not been the case),” explained the former Prime Minister.
Where does he think the government has gone wrong?
“There seem to be a desire to reject all that has been done in the past to the point of condemning what was done in the past as a waste of money, as bankrupting the country, in order to prove that the stopped projects (were saving us money).
“For example, the railway line, the double tracking electrification of the railway line from Johor Bharu to Padang Besar, the cost would have been 14 billion Ringgit. (But) they stopped it completely.
“And (suddenly) later on they found that it is necessary to have this railway line, so just between Ipoh and Padang Besar, it (now) costs 12 billion Ringgit, which represents a big loss of money,” added Mahathir.
Along with it, according to Mahathir, was a loss of independence in deciding what to build in our own territory.
“Then of course, they decided that the bridge to Singapore should be abandoned.
If my ideas are rejected, it’s okay.”/mD“First, they tried to negotiate with Singapore. I knew that negotiating with Singapore is a futile effort, but they wanted to negotiate with Singapore - and sure enough, Singapore was not cooperative.
“But the strange thing is that, they did not even build a bridge in our territorial waters. So I can’t understand this because I think that this means we are not fully independent. We can't do things in our own territory and many other things were stopped (apparently) because the government has no money” reiterated Mahathir.
Have the government gone broke?
“Actually the government have more money now than during the time I was Prime Minister.
“Petronas alone has contributed 2 or 3 times more to the government after I have stepped down than during the time when I was in the government.
“So the government in my time did not have much money but we managed to develop the country and we were not in debt, we did not have any deficit and the country, financially was strong enough even to deal with currencies crisis,” said Mahathir, who is also the adviser to the national oil company.
He thinks the government now is at fault for its change in policy direction.
“But now I'm told that there is a deficit and the deficits not due to my spending money. It is due to what happened later.
“So, it is unfortunate that the change of direction has sort of antagonised the people, or makes the people unhappy to the extent that they do not want to support the Barisan Nasional (National Coalition) anymore.
“Of course we still win but with very small majority,” said the former President of Umno, the party that leads Barisan Nasional.