PETALING JAYA: The police force should not bow and scrape before politicians or those in high positions just because of our culture of respecting officials, says Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said Malaysians are used to giving respect to leaders, so much so that their demands and orders are followed even if they are wrong.
“The police are given the freedom to operate with no interference from politicians.
“However, we are too used to giving respect to leaders, doing things that are not supposed to be done just because the order came from someone in power. That is the problem, ” the former premier said on Monday (May 3).
Dr Mahathir was responding to a question during a live interview on Dialektika TV on Facebook, on whether political interference in the police force has been around for a long time, even since when he was the fourth prime minister.
The Langkawi MP said such a culture was apparent not only in the police force.
“It happened to other officials too. When they were told to do something wrong by someone in power, they still did it.
“This is a weakness we have and politicians take advantage of it. They use their positions to control the executive powers.
“This should not have happened but it does due to such a habit of ours, ” he said, referring to a recent allegation by former Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador that Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin had meddled in police affairs.
Last Friday (April 30), Abdul Hamid said Hamzah tried to influence the transfers of police officers as the president of the Police Force Commission (SPP).
This was following a leaked audio of Hamzah saying he wanted “our boy” to be the IGP.
Calling his interference unnecessary, Abdul Hamid said he spoke to both Hamzah and Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin about it and the function of SPP but nothing was done.
Dr Mahathir said officers should have the courage to face such a challenge head-on.
“We should accept the reality that politicians should not control officials, especially to do something that is wrong, ” he added.
When asked what he would do to revive the country’s economy amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic if he was still in power, Dr Mahathir said that he would choose to safeguard public health even if it made people dislike him.
“It is between being popular and doing the right thing. In our effort to fight Covid-19 we have to take actions that people don’t like.
“Between being popular and prioritising public health, I will choose public health.
“When we had the first lockdown last year, there were no cars on the road. Now even in lockdown people still go out and we also have Ramadan bazaars.
“Yes, we take precautions. For example, we keep our distance when we pray at the mosque but we still mingle after finishing our prayer. This won’t help us to lessen infections, ” he added.
He also rated the Perikatan Nasional government between four and five out of a scale of one to 10 for its performance in handling the pandemic.