Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad tells of his aspiration for the advisory role of Pakatan Harapan if the coalition comes into power but he objects to local elections, citing it was unsafe for the country to create Chinese-ruled urban and Malay-ruled rural areas.
At a forum dubbed “Hardtalk”, organised last night to replace the debate between Mahathir and Umno minister Nazri Abdul Aziz, which was cancelled by police allegedly for security reasons, Mahathir shared his vision of a post-Najib era.
Mahathir hopes Harapan will not reject his advice just like his successors Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Najib Abdul Razak did.
“Harapan has appointed both Dr Wan Azizah (Wan Ismail) and I as advisers. I am no longer a prime minister, but I still can offer my advice and I have lots of ideas,” he said.
“When I resigned as prime minister, I still had many things to do then, but I quit as I had been there for too long,” he said.
UP CORPORATE TAX
He suggested for Harapan to tax big businesses via corporate tax to ease the burden of the people who suffered due to the goods and services tax (GST).
Mahathir, together with Amanah lawmaker Husam Musa, were “grilled” by four moderators, including political analyst Maszlee Malik, political scientist Wong Chin Huat, strategy consultant Arifin Hassan and former Batu Burok state assblyperson Syed Azman Syed Ahmad on various issues.
When “grilled’ on the controversial local election issue, Husam declined to state Amanah’s stand, citing he has no official position in the party and feared that his opinion would be used by its opponent against the party.
The country’s longest serving prime minister, who was willing to share his opinions, admitted that he would be labelled a racist later.
“Malaysia is a multiracial country but the people are split racially. The urban areas are mainly populated by the Chinese while the Malays stay in the rural areas.
“If we were to conduct local elections, there is a possibility that the cities will be governed by one ethnic race while the rural areas by another ethnic race,” he said.
It would be unsafe if different local governments were dominated by a single race respectively, he said.
Mahathir, who is also Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairperson, said the current electoral system, which allowed both rural and urban areas to be integrated under the state legislative assembly, could integrate each ethnicity.
The government has tried to improve the racial imbalance by bring more Malays into the cities while taking more Chinese out of the urban areas, he said.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang was reportedly objecting to local elections advocated by DAP before the Islamic party broke ties with the defunct Pakatan Rakyat, citing the gap between urban and rural areas might led to another May 13, 1969 tragedy.
ORANGE & APPLE
Meanwhile, Mahathir also objected critics’ effort to equate him with Najib, given both of them used draconian laws and allegedly created financial scandals under their rules.
“I am not the same as Najib. I never abused my power, but he overstepped his authority. What we are seeing is abuse of power,” he said.
“When did I have RM2.6 billion in my personal bank account. When did I set up 1MDB and make billions of ringgit disappear?
“I was involved in the probe of MBF (Bumiputra Malaysia Finance Limited), but this was not a government-owned bank. The government had taken action to punish those who deliberately committed wrongdoing and tabled a report in Parliament for debate,” he said.
Mahathir also denied allegation that he cost a huge loss in Perwaja Steel.
“It wasn’t me causing the loss. I appointed someone I thought was capable, it was the person who caused the loss,” he said.
Both Perwaja and MBF reportedly suffered billions of losses during Mahathir’s era in the 1980s.
Unlike the auditor-general’s report on 1MDB, Mahathir said he never had these reports classified under the Official Secrets Act.
Mahathir said he only used the Internal Security Act (ISA), which was formulated by the administration before him, while Najib created new laws worse than ISA.
“He’s not like me (either). It’s like (comparing) apples and oranges. He is apple and I am orange,” he added.
Mahathir also accused Najib of being a populist by increasing the number of civil servants, without realising the impact of a bloated civil service.
He said he could maintain the number of civil servants below the 1million by shifting them to privatised companies.
It was reported the number of civil servants have now touched 1.7 million.
Mahathir said he will not object if former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim returns to politics after being pardoned by the rulers and released from prison.
“If the people want Anwar, who am I to reject them?” he asked.
“I have released some individuals sent to jails, I don’t keep it to heart. I even appointed an opponent of mine, who supported Tengku Razaleigh (during Umno’s infighting) into my cabinet. The person later became one of the prime minister. That was my record,” he said, without naming Abdullah.
He, however, said it is up to the future prime minister to make a decision to seek the ruler’s permission to pardon Anwar.
AMANAH & BERSATU CAN REPLACE PAS
Meanwhile, Husam said both Amanah and Bersatu will be able to replace PAS’s role in the opposition coalition.
Political pundits expect the opposition to suffer a setback with the demise of Pakatan Rakyat and they should work together with the Islamic party as a united front to beat BN.
He, however noted Kelantan PAS will try to evade a three-cornered-fight between, BN, Harapan and PAS.
“I think there are rational people in PAS aside from those ‘zombies’. If the rational people take charge in the party after its election, then it is possible that PAS (returns to the opposition coalition),” he said.
PAS will choose between working with Harapan or BN in order to retain power in Kelantan, he added.