KUALA LUMPUR: Demonstrations can never topple a democratically elected government, said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said that although the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government allowed street demonstrations, the government could only be changed through elections.
“If elections are set aside (and) instead we follow what the demonstrators want, democracy will not surface. While we allow demonstrations, small or big, demonstrations by themselves cannot bring down the government.
“What can bring down the government is elections,” he said during an interview on TV talk show Bicara Khas Bersama Perdana Menteri, on RTM1, on Monday night.
He was commenting on the anti-ICERD (International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racism) turned “thanksgiving” rally by the opposition in the federal capital on Saturday.
The prime minister also said elections could be held earlier to gauge the people’s support if it was clear that the existing government had failed.
Mahathir said the PH government would not deny freedom of speech and that the people were free to criticise the government.
“We need a strong government but not to a point where such criticisms are ignored, for example, to deny the role of ministers whereby they must agree to whatever is instructed by the leadership,” he said.
He said the government’s strengths were important and necessary especially when dealing with problems that crop up in society.
He noted that if a government was not strong, it would not be possible to address problems and conflicts as some would not respect a weak government.
Mahathir said a leader’s experience was important in managing problems.
“He should know the type of action he needs to take under the circumstances. In a particular situation, what (action) cannot be taken because if the approach is not wise, there is a great likelihood that the government will fail,” he said.
Mahathir said PH needed more time to show the results of the changes being implemented as the government now had to repair the damage done by the previous administration.