Interview with Malaysia Prime Minister (Transcript)

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Reading Time: 12 minutes

Transcript of full interview with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Firoz: Our first question is about the “New Malaysia.” You’ve fought very, very hard for this New Malaysia, and there is so much expectation. What is your vision for Malaysia regarding the governance for its citizens in terms of racial cohesion, and the related institutions?

Mahathir: Well, the New Malaysia, of course, is something that should be certainly better than the last regime, and even an improvement on the period during which I was Prime Minister for 22 years, which means of course that we have to go back to democracy and the rule of law. We have to respect the wishes of the people. They have shown that they did not like the previous government, and of course we have to take corrective action to bring back the country to its former organisation. In the past, civil servants, for example, did dabble in politics, but they are there to carry out the policies and rules of the present government and not to be members of the party.

But it’s quite clear that in the last ten years or so, the civil servants have changed so much so that they were openly seen to be campaigning for the government and it was wrong. It makes them biased, it makes them want to ensure that the previous government wins, sometimes by doing wrong things. That, of course, we have to correct and the work of correcting is very difficult because most of the senior civil servants, heads of ministries and departments were involved. Not only involved for their help in the previous government, but some of them have become corrupted and they saw opportunities for making money for themselves and didn’t hesitate to keep away from such temptations. Seeing the leader of the government himself being accused of corruption, we find that many of them are involved in corrupt activities, and of course we cannot have those people continuing because the perception of things, their ethics towards things, are not what is expected from civil servants. We are not taking revenge by removing them, but when you find that a person and officer is involved in wrongdoings, it will be wrong for us to retain them.

Those who are clear, they are retained. Sometimes its so difficult to replace current officials because below them would also be corrupt officers. Sometimes we have to go down three or four steps before we can find an officer who’s not involved. So the process has taken quite some time because without having a leader or head of a department who is clean, we will not be able to bring about the reforms that we need, the rule of law to be applied etc. So we are involved in removing quite a lot of people, simply because they were involved, not because they were party members but for cases where they were openly campaigning for the previous party. We cannot expect them to carry out their jobs without being affected by their loyalties.

So that is the main problem there and then we have first to uphold the rule of law and once again accept the democratic system of governance

Firoz: With the civil service being political, would you agree that it’s a cultural thing as opposed to individuals wanting to be apolitical? So, it’s the whole culture that needs to be changed which takes time as it has to be done from the roots all the way up. Malaysia is often seen as a leader-reverence culture, as in that we look up to our leaders. How do you intend to change such a culture?

Mahathir: Of course it requires time because the whole value system of the people has been undermined. For example, the previous government was very fond of giving money to the people, ostensibly because of poverty. But even those who are not poor they were also given money, in fact everybody has been given free money by the government. This makes the people government-dependent and they no longer work in order to earn an income. They expect their income to come  from the government which undermines their work ethic to a point when they no longer work in order to earn a living. They feel that even if they don’t work the government has a duty to support them, and this is of course very bad because that means they are not productive. Eventually, the number of people who are productive would be reduced and they would not be able to pay the taxes which the government needs in order to support this very lavish style of administration that gives free gifts to the people. So we have to change that and it would cost something.

For example, they used to give money to the fishermen, whether they catch fish or not, it doesn’t matter, they get 300 ringgit a month like a salary. Now we can’t afford to do that because the money that was given to them was taken from the government or from illegal sources. Like money from 1MDB that was taken by the government and given to the people. We can’t do that as we don’t have the money, but to tell the people that “sorry we cannot give you what you have become used to” would not be very easily accepted because they would say “well, the previous government was better” but we have to slowly tell them “there is no way we can give you money unless of course you work for your income.”

Firoz: The civil service is also just like any institution, and the way one behaves is the way one is remunerated. Like, you tell me how much you remunerate me I and tell you how I behave. So, do you foresee changing the whole performance management system in the Public Service Department as part of culture changing efforts?

Mahathir: I think some of them would be incorrigible because they have gotten used to getting a lot of money for free. These people we need to remove because there is no way of changing them back to a normal moral behaviour. So we have to promote those who are younger and perhaps less experienced and train them again, so that they will be a new breed of people who are not tainted by bad practices of the past.

Firoz: I’d like to ask about the concept of government-linked-companies (GLCs) such as Khazanah which you set up many years back with the view of empowering the Malay race and also creating an engine that will boost the economy. How do you see Khazanah and the GLCs that have evolved since? Have they developed in a way that you have wished for them 30 years back? And if not, how do you foresee changing them?

Mahathir: The idea of having a government-linked-company and the formation of Khazanah was prompted by the apparent inability of the Malays to retain shares. We used to allocate a certain amount of shares for the Bumiputra but they showed an apparent inability to retain shares they wish they had acquired when we had their affirmative action. When they get shares, they inevitably sell them all and then they go back to having no shares. That way, they enrich the very people that they are supposed to chase after. So we thought that instead of giving directly to the Bumiputra, we’ll create a body that can hold the shares until such time when they have the capacity to retain those shares. That was the original intention, but along the way, Khazanah decided that it should take all the shares for itself and if they are good shares, well, why not acquire the shares at the time of listing when the price of shares was very low, and so they forgot entirely about holding the shares for the Bumiputra. They decided that they should be holding the shares forever as a part of the companies owned by the government.

And the government then was no longer following the initial intention of the formation of Khazanah, so we need to go through the huge number of companies they hold shares in and categorise them into the ones that can be profitable, the ones that may be profitable and the ones that may be losing. We need to talk about closing with some of this companies to reduce the overall number and to a certain extent go back to the original intention of holding the shares allocated to the Bumiputras until such time when they can buy.

Firoz: The other thing about GLCs is – I’m sure you’ve heard this many times – isthst of personal connections,like +people know people.+ The whole concept of who you know and not what you know in Malaysia seems to have come to hurt us a lot. How do you intend to change this?

Mahathir: Well, what happened before is that the government found it convenient to please their supporters in these GLC companies. They got a good income from the companies and the government and for that, of course, they appreciate the governments placing them there. The result us that we have a lot of people who are non-professionals, who are not familiar with business but are holding high posts in the GLCs, and this of course defeats the whole purpose, The GLCs inevitably  lose money, but the salaries of these people are very high and they enjoy all this without bothering whether the company makes profits or not. We, on the other hand, want to place professionals there; and their salaries will not be very high. They may be slightly higher than civil service salaries, but if they perform then we’ll pay them a bonus. If they don’t perform they won’t get the high income that is currently being paid, and we will change the management so that we appoint professionals. Whether they are party people or not, it doesn’t matter, but they must be professionals fitting into the business of the company.

Imran: I’d like to focus on the global agenda. There’s been some very hot topics globally now from climate change to immigration policies and global trade, so what would be the focus for your government on these topics? And how about foreign investment?

Mahathir: We still welcome foreign direct investment. Of course we also encourage domestic investment, but foreign direct investment does not mean buying land in Malaysia, building whole cities and bringing foreigners to live in Malaysia – that is not foreign direct investment. For us, foreign direct investment means bringing in the capital and the technology, setting up plants in Malaysia, employing Malaysians in those plans and producing for the domestic market or for export. That is what we want to encourage.

The last government said that they are bringing huge amounts of foreign direct investment, but these were investments in buying huge pieces of land and develop towns which Malaysians do not need or cannot afford, so that is not serving the purpose. We want to go back to the original definition of foreign direct investment, and we are going to be very business-friendly, that is something that we want people to know. We, in turn, want to know what are their problems, they will have easy access to the government and to the ministers, so that we can overcome whatever obstacles they may have to face.

Imran: Speaking on that, during your tenure in the nineties you inculcated the look-east policy, and Japan was the first country that you visited. Is this relationship – mainly on technology, education and investment – going to continue as it was before, is it going to be fully reciprocal, and what do you expect to receive from Japan into Malaysia in terms of investment as you just mentioned?

Mahathir: It will be continued but it will be enhanced as we want to have even better relations with Japan, and also with South Korea and China because these are centers of growth, and they obviously know how to grow their economies. We want to learn from them and we want to have them come to Malaysia to invest in the kind of foreign direct investment I mentioned just now.

Imran: Are their plans for them to set up educational institutions here, maybe Japanese universities? Is that something that you’d like to happen?

Mahathir: We have already a very open policy with foreign educational institutions. We have universities from Australia, from America, from Britain and from China. Sure, if there is agreed to be a Japanese university, we would welcome that, because Malaysia wants to be an educational center where people can come and attend different universities while enjoying the lower cost of living in Malaysia.

Imran: How about the Middle East? How do you view moving forward your relationship with the Middle East and the GCC nations in terms of investment and policy?

Mahathir: We want investment from the Middle East, they have the capital and they can perhaps bring technology from other countries. Their main concern is of course into properties because that is something they have expertise in. But as for manufacturing, this is not the strength of the Middle East, but they may get the manufacturing expertise from other countries and they may put in the capital when own the company here. I think they can benefit from manufacturing, although it may be done by other countries.

Imran: What are your plans for Malaysia’s integration into ASEAN, and are there other models to look at or something that could be applied to ASEAN? For example the EU or something else?

Mahathir: Well, ASEAN has held together, at times there was a very strong corporation, but today with democracy being practiced in most of the ASEAN countries, changes in government leadership are very frequent. The personal kind of friendship that the leaders used to develop is no longer possible. When you go to an ASEAN leaders meeting, you find that half of them are new leaders and we take a little bit of time to develop new relationships. I still feel that ASEAN has tremendous potential. Within the bloc, there are about 600 million people, and that is a good market. But we need to exchange information on policies which would encourage growth within each ASEAN country and also growth through trade and investment from ASEAN countries to other ASEAN countries

Imran: Is there a plan for another Malaysian car brand, maybe built with another ASEAN country?

Mahathir: There has been talk about an ASEAN car over a long period of time. but we were not able to concentrate and work together. Sometimes it’s because of leadership changes. When the Malaysian government changed its leaders, they seem to think that was something worth pursuing. So the idea was actually dropped. but now we find that, again, the new ASEAN leaders are keen to get together. They realise that there’s a lot of money flowing from ASEAN countries to other countries because they are importers of goods and services from oabroad. ASEAN must also be good producers of goods and services so that we can export and reduce our imports. That means we can have more money flowing in and less money flowing out.

Imran: What are your plans for investment and infrastructures within Malaysia? In the next five years, what other investments should be done in Malaysia?

Mahathir: We have to be very choosy about infrastructure and think about if we really need certain ones. if there is no urgent need, we can postpone it to a later date. or maybe even cancel it if there is no real necessity. .We will be very careful about how we invest in infrastructure. I mean, if we want to build a railway line, is it worthwhile? Is it going to give good return or not? These are things we have to take into consideration. Not just wanting to have something that we can show off but something that is needed by the country. That will be our policy.

Firoz: One of your party’s promises is to return autonomous status to Sabah and Sarawak per as the 1963 agreement. What are your plans to enable that?

Mahathir: You see, being together as a country is very good because it helps us, it strengthens us. On the other hand, each region wants to have more control over their own affairs. So we recognised that when we were negotiating for Malaysia, it was the Peninsula, the government federation of Malaya, negotiating with Sabah and Sarawak as two entities. But when Malaysia was founded, they were regarded as merely one of the 13 states in Malaysia. Of course, this means that their authority, their independence in terms of policies and all that is much reduced. So now they want to have some autonomy, and we can accept that and give them autonomy over certain matters. But there will be joint authority over certain matters like defense, for example, and police forces. This should be central. But on certain issues, including exploitation of resources and maybe policies with regard to investment, this we can leave to each region. There are no longer states now, they are regions. So Sabah and Sarawak, and the Peninsula, each can have authority over certain things which presently is controlled by the federal government.

Firoz:  With the appointment of all your cabinet ministers, will the government now move forward in line with your new policies? You emphasised on the ethos of legislative, executive and judiciary. so if some in the ministry still pursue their political agenda, will there be place where other civil servants can go to complain, like a whistle blowing hotline or a committee or something? Currently, there isn’t a known platform where they can go.

Mahathir: Well, we have the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which is concerned with corruption. So if there is any case of corruption, everybody is free to go and report this matter. I think they will treat it as confidential. They will not reveal the source so that the person will not be victimized. At the same time, we have set up a special agent group, also concerned with corruption but on a wider range because it will also develop the kind of culture in the government that would reduce the possibility of corruption. These are people who are very knowledgeable of how officers become corrupted, they will give causes and talk with them, and of course, they also will accept any report by anybody on possible corruption of any of the government officers. They are quite free to act as they are not controlled completely by the government. They have to inform the government because only the government can take action, but they will be there to oversee the quality of service provided by the government to the people.

Imran: When we last  net, you spoke at length on abuse of power and how power had been abused from top down. How do you stop that in future generations, how would you put a plan in place so that it never occurs again?

A: We need to instill values among the younger people in a way that when they will grow up they will be less prone to corruption. At the same time, of course, we have to take definitive action against people who are found to be corrupt, we will do this without any regard for their position or their relationship with anybody. We have to be very strict about the rule of law and it is going to be applied to everyone on the same basis irrespective of the position. We don’t have any special treatment for the high-so and are less sympathetic to people in the lower ranks. Everybody will be treated in the same way. Basically, it is about the rule of law, it is going to be applied to everyone without exception.

Imran: Understood, Perfect with, thank you very much for your time.

Firoz: Thank you

(Imran Saddique is Investvine’s director and Firoz Abdul Hamid is Investvine contributor, author and expert on Malaysia”s internal affairs)

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Reading Time: 12 minutes

Transcript of full interview with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Firoz: Our first question is about the “New Malaysia.” You’ve fought very, very hard for this New Malaysia, and there is so much expectation. What is your vision for Malaysia regarding the governance for its citizens in terms of racial cohesion, and the related institutions?

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Transcript of full interview with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad

Firoz: Our first question is about the “New Malaysia.” You’ve fought very, very hard for this New Malaysia, and there is so much expectation. What is your vision for Malaysia regarding the governance for its citizens in terms of racial cohesion, and the related institutions?

Mahathir: Well, the New Malaysia, of course, is something that should be certainly better than the last regime, and even an improvement on the period during which I was Prime Minister for 22 years, which means of course that we have to go back to democracy and the rule of law. We have to respect the wishes of the people. They have shown that they did not like the previous government, and of course we have to take corrective action to bring back the country to its former organisation. In the past, civil servants, for example, did dabble in politics, but they are there to carry out the policies and rules of the present government and not to be members of the party.

But it’s quite clear that in the last ten years or so, the civil servants have changed so much so that they were openly seen to be campaigning for the government and it was wrong. It makes them biased, it makes them want to ensure that the previous government wins, sometimes by doing wrong things. That, of course, we have to correct and the work of correcting is very difficult because most of the senior civil servants, heads of ministries and departments were involved. Not only involved for their help in the previous government, but some of them have become corrupted and they saw opportunities for making money for themselves and didn’t hesitate to keep away from such temptations. Seeing the leader of the government himself being accused of corruption, we find that many of them are involved in corrupt activities, and of course we cannot have those people continuing because the perception of things, their ethics towards things, are not what is expected from civil servants. We are not taking revenge by removing them, but when you find that a person and officer is involved in wrongdoings, it will be wrong for us to retain them.

Those who are clear, they are retained. Sometimes its so difficult to replace current officials because below them would also be corrupt officers. Sometimes we have to go down three or four steps before we can find an officer who’s not involved. So the process has taken quite some time because without having a leader or head of a department who is clean, we will not be able to bring about the reforms that we need, the rule of law to be applied etc. So we are involved in removing quite a lot of people, simply because they were involved, not because they were party members but for cases where they were openly campaigning for the previous party. We cannot expect them to carry out their jobs without being affected by their loyalties.

So that is the main problem there and then we have first to uphold the rule of law and once again accept the democratic system of governance

Firoz: With the civil service being political, would you agree that it’s a cultural thing as opposed to individuals wanting to be apolitical? So, it’s the whole culture that needs to be changed which takes time as it has to be done from the roots all the way up. Malaysia is often seen as a leader-reverence culture, as in that we look up to our leaders. How do you intend to change such a culture?

Mahathir: Of course it requires time because the whole value system of the people has been undermined. For example, the previous government was very fond of giving money to the people, ostensibly because of poverty. But even those who are not poor they were also given money, in fact everybody has been given free money by the government. This makes the people government-dependent and they no longer work in order to earn an income. They expect their income to come  from the government which undermines their work ethic to a point when they no longer work in order to earn a living. They feel that even if they don’t work the government has a duty to support them, and this is of course very bad because that means they are not productive. Eventually, the number of people who are productive would be reduced and they would not be able to pay the taxes which the government needs in order to support this very lavish style of administration that gives free gifts to the people. So we have to change that and it would cost something.

For example, they used to give money to the fishermen, whether they catch fish or not, it doesn’t matter, they get 300 ringgit a month like a salary. Now we can’t afford to do that because the money that was given to them was taken from the government or from illegal sources. Like money from 1MDB that was taken by the government and given to the people. We can’t do that as we don’t have the money, but to tell the people that “sorry we cannot give you what you have become used to” would not be very easily accepted because they would say “well, the previous government was better” but we have to slowly tell them “there is no way we can give you money unless of course you work for your income.”

Firoz: The civil service is also just like any institution, and the way one behaves is the way one is remunerated. Like, you tell me how much you remunerate me I and tell you how I behave. So, do you foresee changing the whole performance management system in the Public Service Department as part of culture changing efforts?

Mahathir: I think some of them would be incorrigible because they have gotten used to getting a lot of money for free. These people we need to remove because there is no way of changing them back to a normal moral behaviour. So we have to promote those who are younger and perhaps less experienced and train them again, so that they will be a new breed of people who are not tainted by bad practices of the past.

Firoz: I’d like to ask about the concept of government-linked-companies (GLCs) such as Khazanah which you set up many years back with the view of empowering the Malay race and also creating an engine that will boost the economy. How do you see Khazanah and the GLCs that have evolved since? Have they developed in a way that you have wished for them 30 years back? And if not, how do you foresee changing them?

Mahathir: The idea of having a government-linked-company and the formation of Khazanah was prompted by the apparent inability of the Malays to retain shares. We used to allocate a certain amount of shares for the Bumiputra but they showed an apparent inability to retain shares they wish they had acquired when we had their affirmative action. When they get shares, they inevitably sell them all and then they go back to having no shares. That way, they enrich the very people that they are supposed to chase after. So we thought that instead of giving directly to the Bumiputra, we’ll create a body that can hold the shares until such time when they have the capacity to retain those shares. That was the original intention, but along the way, Khazanah decided that it should take all the shares for itself and if they are good shares, well, why not acquire the shares at the time of listing when the price of shares was very low, and so they forgot entirely about holding the shares for the Bumiputra. They decided that they should be holding the shares forever as a part of the companies owned by the government.

And the government then was no longer following the initial intention of the formation of Khazanah, so we need to go through the huge number of companies they hold shares in and categorise them into the ones that can be profitable, the ones that may be profitable and the ones that may be losing. We need to talk about closing with some of this companies to reduce the overall number and to a certain extent go back to the original intention of holding the shares allocated to the Bumiputras until such time when they can buy.

Firoz: The other thing about GLCs is – I’m sure you’ve heard this many times – isthst of personal connections,like +people know people.+ The whole concept of who you know and not what you know in Malaysia seems to have come to hurt us a lot. How do you intend to change this?

Mahathir: Well, what happened before is that the government found it convenient to please their supporters in these GLC companies. They got a good income from the companies and the government and for that, of course, they appreciate the governments placing them there. The result us that we have a lot of people who are non-professionals, who are not familiar with business but are holding high posts in the GLCs, and this of course defeats the whole purpose, The GLCs inevitably  lose money, but the salaries of these people are very high and they enjoy all this without bothering whether the company makes profits or not. We, on the other hand, want to place professionals there; and their salaries will not be very high. They may be slightly higher than civil service salaries, but if they perform then we’ll pay them a bonus. If they don’t perform they won’t get the high income that is currently being paid, and we will change the management so that we appoint professionals. Whether they are party people or not, it doesn’t matter, but they must be professionals fitting into the business of the company.

Imran: I’d like to focus on the global agenda. There’s been some very hot topics globally now from climate change to immigration policies and global trade, so what would be the focus for your government on these topics? And how about foreign investment?

Mahathir: We still welcome foreign direct investment. Of course we also encourage domestic investment, but foreign direct investment does not mean buying land in Malaysia, building whole cities and bringing foreigners to live in Malaysia – that is not foreign direct investment. For us, foreign direct investment means bringing in the capital and the technology, setting up plants in Malaysia, employing Malaysians in those plans and producing for the domestic market or for export. That is what we want to encourage.

The last government said that they are bringing huge amounts of foreign direct investment, but these were investments in buying huge pieces of land and develop towns which Malaysians do not need or cannot afford, so that is not serving the purpose. We want to go back to the original definition of foreign direct investment, and we are going to be very business-friendly, that is something that we want people to know. We, in turn, want to know what are their problems, they will have easy access to the government and to the ministers, so that we can overcome whatever obstacles they may have to face.

Imran: Speaking on that, during your tenure in the nineties you inculcated the look-east policy, and Japan was the first country that you visited. Is this relationship – mainly on technology, education and investment – going to continue as it was before, is it going to be fully reciprocal, and what do you expect to receive from Japan into Malaysia in terms of investment as you just mentioned?

Mahathir: It will be continued but it will be enhanced as we want to have even better relations with Japan, and also with South Korea and China because these are centers of growth, and they obviously know how to grow their economies. We want to learn from them and we want to have them come to Malaysia to invest in the kind of foreign direct investment I mentioned just now.

Imran: Are their plans for them to set up educational institutions here, maybe Japanese universities? Is that something that you’d like to happen?

Mahathir: We have already a very open policy with foreign educational institutions. We have universities from Australia, from America, from Britain and from China. Sure, if there is agreed to be a Japanese university, we would welcome that, because Malaysia wants to be an educational center where people can come and attend different universities while enjoying the lower cost of living in Malaysia.

Imran: How about the Middle East? How do you view moving forward your relationship with the Middle East and the GCC nations in terms of investment and policy?

Mahathir: We want investment from the Middle East, they have the capital and they can perhaps bring technology from other countries. Their main concern is of course into properties because that is something they have expertise in. But as for manufacturing, this is not the strength of the Middle East, but they may get the manufacturing expertise from other countries and they may put in the capital when own the company here. I think they can benefit from manufacturing, although it may be done by other countries.

Imran: What are your plans for Malaysia’s integration into ASEAN, and are there other models to look at or something that could be applied to ASEAN? For example the EU or something else?

Mahathir: Well, ASEAN has held together, at times there was a very strong corporation, but today with democracy being practiced in most of the ASEAN countries, changes in government leadership are very frequent. The personal kind of friendship that the leaders used to develop is no longer possible. When you go to an ASEAN leaders meeting, you find that half of them are new leaders and we take a little bit of time to develop new relationships. I still feel that ASEAN has tremendous potential. Within the bloc, there are about 600 million people, and that is a good market. But we need to exchange information on policies which would encourage growth within each ASEAN country and also growth through trade and investment from ASEAN countries to other ASEAN countries

Imran: Is there a plan for another Malaysian car brand, maybe built with another ASEAN country?

Mahathir: There has been talk about an ASEAN car over a long period of time. but we were not able to concentrate and work together. Sometimes it’s because of leadership changes. When the Malaysian government changed its leaders, they seem to think that was something worth pursuing. So the idea was actually dropped. but now we find that, again, the new ASEAN leaders are keen to get together. They realise that there’s a lot of money flowing from ASEAN countries to other countries because they are importers of goods and services from oabroad. ASEAN must also be good producers of goods and services so that we can export and reduce our imports. That means we can have more money flowing in and less money flowing out.

Imran: What are your plans for investment and infrastructures within Malaysia? In the next five years, what other investments should be done in Malaysia?

Mahathir: We have to be very choosy about infrastructure and think about if we really need certain ones. if there is no urgent need, we can postpone it to a later date. or maybe even cancel it if there is no real necessity. .We will be very careful about how we invest in infrastructure. I mean, if we want to build a railway line, is it worthwhile? Is it going to give good return or not? These are things we have to take into consideration. Not just wanting to have something that we can show off but something that is needed by the country. That will be our policy.

Firoz: One of your party’s promises is to return autonomous status to Sabah and Sarawak per as the 1963 agreement. What are your plans to enable that?

Mahathir: You see, being together as a country is very good because it helps us, it strengthens us. On the other hand, each region wants to have more control over their own affairs. So we recognised that when we were negotiating for Malaysia, it was the Peninsula, the government federation of Malaya, negotiating with Sabah and Sarawak as two entities. But when Malaysia was founded, they were regarded as merely one of the 13 states in Malaysia. Of course, this means that their authority, their independence in terms of policies and all that is much reduced. So now they want to have some autonomy, and we can accept that and give them autonomy over certain matters. But there will be joint authority over certain matters like defense, for example, and police forces. This should be central. But on certain issues, including exploitation of resources and maybe policies with regard to investment, this we can leave to each region. There are no longer states now, they are regions. So Sabah and Sarawak, and the Peninsula, each can have authority over certain things which presently is controlled by the federal government.

Firoz:  With the appointment of all your cabinet ministers, will the government now move forward in line with your new policies? You emphasised on the ethos of legislative, executive and judiciary. so if some in the ministry still pursue their political agenda, will there be place where other civil servants can go to complain, like a whistle blowing hotline or a committee or something? Currently, there isn’t a known platform where they can go.

Mahathir: Well, we have the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which is concerned with corruption. So if there is any case of corruption, everybody is free to go and report this matter. I think they will treat it as confidential. They will not reveal the source so that the person will not be victimized. At the same time, we have set up a special agent group, also concerned with corruption but on a wider range because it will also develop the kind of culture in the government that would reduce the possibility of corruption. These are people who are very knowledgeable of how officers become corrupted, they will give causes and talk with them, and of course, they also will accept any report by anybody on possible corruption of any of the government officers. They are quite free to act as they are not controlled completely by the government. They have to inform the government because only the government can take action, but they will be there to oversee the quality of service provided by the government to the people.

Imran: When we last  net, you spoke at length on abuse of power and how power had been abused from top down. How do you stop that in future generations, how would you put a plan in place so that it never occurs again?

A: We need to instill values among the younger people in a way that when they will grow up they will be less prone to corruption. At the same time, of course, we have to take definitive action against people who are found to be corrupt, we will do this without any regard for their position or their relationship with anybody. We have to be very strict about the rule of law and it is going to be applied to everyone on the same basis irrespective of the position. We don’t have any special treatment for the high-so and are less sympathetic to people in the lower ranks. Everybody will be treated in the same way. Basically, it is about the rule of law, it is going to be applied to everyone without exception.

Imran: Understood, Perfect with, thank you very much for your time.

Firoz: Thank you

(Imran Saddique is Investvine’s director and Firoz Abdul Hamid is Investvine contributor, author and expert on Malaysia”s internal affairs)

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