PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said there was corruption when he was prime minister in 1981, but claimed that it was “hardly damaging to the country”.
“The level of corruption was so low that it was not a priority for us.
“But this time around (when) I moved in as prime minister, I find that the whole government machinery is corrupted, literally they are stealing money. Not all, but some of them,” he said during a forum titled “The Future of Democracy in Asia” that was streamed live by the Chatham House in London yesterday.
Dr Mahathir said he had a “totally different” experience now from the one he had in 1981.
He said he was having a tougher time cleaning up the whole government machinery since returning as prime minister for the second time.
“If I am as young as I was in 1981, I think I can put up with the strain. But here, it is almost unbearable, the amount of decisions that have to be made.
“Even changing heads of department, appointing somebody to take over, all these things I have to decide because that’s the job as prime minister.
“So, the experience is not the same. But to the extent that I can, I will do the right thing,” he added.
Dr Mahathir was responding to a question by the chair of the forum, Adam Ward, who had asked about Dr Mahathir’s experience in returning to the government for the second time.
During the forum, Dr Mahathir also said there was a common misconception that he had helped “cronies” in the past.
He claimed that he only helped those who were “capable of benefiting from businesses”, adding that giving someone business who had no knowledge of doing business would only be “inviting failure”.
On democracy, Dr Mahathir said democracy was not a “perfect system” and that it had its flaws, adding that it was “not easy to handle”.
He said that although a leader was democratically elected, he could still behave like a dictator, like what happened in the previous administration.
When asked about his address at the United Nations General Assembly on the government’s progress on the ratification of the UN instruments on human rights, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia’s ratification of these would not be the same as the ideas practised by the European community.
This was because Malaysia was a Muslim country, where 60% of its population was Muslim with its own values, he added.
Such values, he said, could not be brushed aside simply because the rest of the world regarded certain things as human rights.
Hence, he added, the value system practised in European countries was not the same as the value system in Malaysia.
“There will be restrictions and we should be given that right to have our own value system and to stabilise our country,” he said.
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