Dr M hints at three-year maximum stay as Malaysian PM
PUTRAJAYA - Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday (May 9) that he will not see out a full term and will step aside after fixing problems his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition claims it inherited after forming the government exactly a year ago.
Although the coalition had agreed prior to last year's election that Dr Mahathir would hand over the reins to nemesis-turned-ally Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who had yet to be pardoned from a controversial sodomy conviction then, no timeline was formally agreed.
Those aligned to Anwar, who was sacked as deputy premier in 1998 by Dr Mahathir and then jailed, insisted that the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president should take over the post in a year.
Dr Mahathir told a press conference with the foreign media: "We will make most of the corrections within a period of two years, and after that I think the others will have less problems to face."
Dr Mahathir, who turns 94 in two months, said one of the issues already dealt with in the first 12 months of the PH administration was corruption, "so now I think it is the economy" that his government will focus on this year.
"The fact is the previous government was totally corrupt. There is very little corruption now.
"People can do business with the government now without paying extra. That is a very important achievement that contributes towards the stability of the economy," he said.
PH leaders have claimed that the ousted Barisan Nasional, which Dr Mahathir led for 22 years up to 2003, had left behind RM1.1 trillion (S$360bil) in government liabilities, with several overpriced deals in the offing, such as the now renegotiated East Coast Rail Link and postponed High-Speed Rail to Singapore.
The government has also in recent months dedicated more than RM23bil to bailing out land development authority Felda and Muslim pilgrimage fund Tabung Haji, important institutions for the Malay majority.
"The key challenge is to restore the image of this country. We have a lot of people taking potshots at us, including the press and now social media, because they see us as a target," Dr Mahathir added.
"We have to do something, and when you do something you expose yourselves to criticism. We must take action against miscreants who stole money from the government.
"Of course, some people are not very happy, because they thought they can get away with their misdeeds."
However, Dr Mahathir also sought to temper expectations by saying some election pledges could not be fulfilled due to financial constraints and the need for constitutional amendments.
"For that, we need two-thirds majority (in Parliament). We need the support of the opposition," he said of some reforms aimed at decentralising power from the premier and correcting biased election maps.
PH claims these were abused by the previous prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
PH had also promised several economic benefits, such as abolishing tolled highways, but now finds the Treasury incapable of buying out the billion-dollar concessions.