by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) said that the government has put all the necessary safeguards to protect the country and prevent a repeat of past failures but admitted all these efforts are not failproof for his successor to succeed.
The Prime Minister said when he left the office in 2003, he thought the government was in a healthy state for his successor to govern and steer Malaysia to achieve the goals set in Vision 2020.
“I cannot guarantee that the person who succeeds me will do well or not so well but I think we will put things in place. The administrative machinery has now been cleaned up and put in place. We have people who are more honest.
“They are a little bit less trained but they are quite capable of doing the work. We have corrected the financial situation, reduced the debts and also planned out how to deal with the debt into the future.
“We have also removed many of the heads of departments and ministries and put in new people. But of course, we cannot be certain,” Dr Mahathir said during a session at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York on Thursday.
The world’s oldest elected leader earlier revealed that his current term as PM would only go on for a maximum three-year period before he steps down and hands the position to another candidate.
“So, I cannot guarantee but we can put in place the right machinery which if you work within the system, I think we can achieve the goal of becoming a developed country by 2030,” he added.
Following Pakatan Harapan’s historic victory in the general election last year, Dr Mahathir’s administration had weed out corruption, cleared billions of ringgit worth of debts and amended laws to prevent a repeat of past failures.
Putrajaya had also worked to recover assets stolen from the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) financial scandal. Malaysia is seeking to recover about US$5 billion (RM20.95 billion) in 1MDB-linked assets that were misappropriated. The government has recovered about RM919 million in funds from what was deemed the world’s biggest corporate larceny.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc recently said it would help return the money to Malaysia but did not go into specifics. 17 of the bank’s employees are now facing criminal charges for their alleged role in the issuance of US$6.5 billion worth of bonds for 1MDB.
Goldman pocketed a hefty US$600 million in commission from the deal.
Speaking on the government’s efforts to combat fraud at home, Dr Mahathir described the endeavour as a success with a steep decline in cases related to corruption across all levels.
“I think the mere fact that we advertise that this government is dead against corruption has stopped a lot of people from being corrupt. What happened before was that, when the PM is corrupt, of course the heads of government and all that became corrupt. We got rid of them.
“We have dismissed all of them and if we have a case against them, they will have to deal with it in court. But at the moment, we have reduced large-scale corruption to almost nothing.
“But corruption by certain agencies are still happening and we are trying to find ways and means to reduce even that,” he said.
“People are aware that this government will not tolerate corruption,” he said.