Dr M: My burden 3 times heavier than before

Dr Mahathir Mohamad was interviewed by Indonesian media personality Najwa Shihab.

KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad has described the burden of his responsibility as prime minister as three times heavier that in his first stint at premier three decades ago.

Mahathir, who was Malaysia’s fourth prime minister from 1981 to 2003, said that when he took over as PM then, the administration was very “clean” and the government’s finances were in good shape.

This time, he had to take over an administration that was “dirty” (corruption-riddled). “We were also saddled with debts left behind by the previous administration,”he said in an interview with Indonesian media.

“By right we would have been able to use this money if it was indeed invested but it is missing. So we are forced to service the debts but the original source of the funds are gone. It is a big burden on us,”he said.

He said that this time his responsibility was three times heavier “and furthermore because of my age, I have to work as hard as I can because I have promised to step down. My time (as PM) might be three years, maybe two years.

“In that time, I have to finish work that needs eight to 10 years, I have to run faster,” he said in an interview with Indonesian media personality Najwa Shihab. A video clip has been posted online.

Mahathir became the world’s oldest elected leader when he returned to power in 2018 after the PH coalition ousted the Barisan Nasional which had been in power in the country for six decades.

During the interview, the prime minister was posed a wide range of questions touching on religious education, politics, international affairs, Malaysia-Indonesia relations and his personal life.

Asked about the transfer of power to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and his role thereafter, Mahathir said he was open to giving advice, but Anwar had the right to come up with his own policies.

“He (Anwar) will become prime minister, it will be up to the prime minister to determine his own policies. If I am asked, I might be able to give advice, opinions. If I am asked, but I won’t force anyone to ask me,” he said.