KUALA LUMPUR: A DAP deputy minister says Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is willing to listen to differing views from his Cabinet members.
In fact, Mahathir has no qualms changing his mind after hearing the views of the other ministers, Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry Ong Kian Ming says.
Speaking at a luncheon here, Ong said this was because the prime minister was aware of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election manifesto promises.
“Although the prime minister has more authority now, more room has been given to the other Cabinet ministers to put forth their ideas. I’ve been told by some of them that Mahathir has taken certain positions, and then changed his mind later.
“This is something very positive. As Mahathir jokes sometimes, he is willing to listen now because he wants to be able to practise ‘true democracy’ in his new administration,” Ong said in his opening speech at a talk at Hilton Hotel here today.
Mahathir was recently appointed Khazanah Nasional Berhad’s chairman. However, the move did not sit well with some parties as it was perceived as Mahathir overextending his influence on government-linked companies. Mahathir had since said there was nothing wrong with his appointment.
When he was prime minister in the 1990s, Mahathir was noted for doing things “my way”. At the time, he was often accused of not listening to his right-hand men or Cabinet members. DAP members, who are now part of the government, had in the past also criticised Mahathir for doing this.
But Mahathir has since changed his ways, said Ong. One example of this was when Mahathir announced that he would be helming the education minister’s post. He changed his mind when told it was against what PH had promised.
“He was reminded of our manifesto promise that he can’t hold any other portfolio other than his own office. And I think he’s probably very glad right now because of the heavy work involved in working in that ministry (as well as his own department),” Ong said.
“Although we have not strictly followed the short-term promises we made, we are committed to fulfilling all these over the next five years. This will be spearheaded by the Cabinet with Mahathir steering us. This will be our report card to the voters.”
On the prospect of a third national car project, Ong said it was Mahathir’s prerogative to announce more details on it as “he has more ideas in store” but said it would be in line with PH’s manifesto promise to adopt green technologies and do away with sole reliance on petrol.
“I think the people are concerned because of the economic impact of Proton in the past, but there will be more opportunities for engagement now. We won’t know what the new project will entail, but we are sure it will be in line with green technologies.
“This will likely be clearer once Mahathir returns from his China trip. His new idea here won’t be the same as Proton, no. It’ll be an electric vehicle for one. But let’s wait and see, he has more ideas in store I am sure,” Ong said after the event.
Proton, Mahathir’s brainchild and the national car, sold 49% of its shares to Geely Holdings, a China-based company. Putrajaya said it had announced the national car project 3.0 as Proton was now “compromised” and a new project was needed to study where and how Proton went wrong.
On another issue, Ong reiterated PH’s stand not to recognise hydro dams as a source of renewable energy as he said surrounding forests of dam sites in Malaysia were usually destroyed in the process.
“Large-scale hydro power operations will never be defined (by PH) as renewable. Some countries around the world also agree with us on this. It’s not globally accepted as renewable, so there’s nothing wrong with us saying this.
“They would attract energy-intensive industries like aluminium and steel production, which is not necessarily the kind of investments that we want to grow in Malaysia. The government’s new direction is to move towards more capital-intensive high-technology industries,” Ong said.