If I knew Malaysia would be ruled by thieves, I would have stayed on, says Dr M

(FMT) – Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was prime minister for 22 years, said he would have stayed on if he had known Malaysia would turn into “a country ruled by thieves” after he left.

In his keynote address at the virtual Asian Leadership Conference 2021, he said he had expected those who came after him to share his passion for helping the country to grow.

“I had believed that any leader would be concerned about the people. So, whoever succeeded me wouldn’t matter because I thought if they succeed me they will continue to work on developing the country.

“Unfortunately, they made a 180-degree turn. They decided that leadership gave them opportunities to do things which were not right,” he said, without naming any prime minister in particular.

“That is something, had I known, I would have stayed on even though I had served for 22 years. But, of course, we know nothing of the future.”

Mahathir said his biggest achievement was helping Malaysia become an “Asian Tiger”, due to the country’s rapid economic growth during his tenure.

He said this had little to do with any personal gains, “but about having done something which you set out to do, successfully”.

Global Covid-19 response

Touching on the need for global leaders to collectively fight the Covid-19 pandemic, Mahathir said efforts must be made by the rich nations to help uplift countries that lacked the same resources.

“The virus attacks everyone, rich or poor, and therefore, we need to have a central force to combat this because we are fighting a common enemy. But, unfortunately, we are not behaving like that.”

He lamented that some wealthy countries had bought more vaccines than they needed, limiting supply to other nations.

“The only way to defeat a common enemy is to be united as one force and design a defence that takes into account the problems of every one of us.”

The world would only be able to truly heal when everyone is safe, he said, calling upon wealthy nations to show empathy with poorer ones and use this opportunity as a way to reset relationships that may have been strained in the past.

Asian values

Asked about the importance of Asian values, Mahathir said that for centuries, the world had looked to the West for guidance.

“But of late, we have seen a deterioration of their value system, part of it has actually collapsed. We find that they want so much to be free, that it denies the freedom of other people.”

He listed the Capitol Hill riots in the US earlier this year as an example, as well as the lack of emphasis placed on the “traditional” family.

“In the West now, marriage is not respected. Most children are born out of wedlock.

“When we cannot even identify our natural father, we do things that we have never done before, like ‘there is no need to marry, when you like someone, you live with that someone, and if you don’t like them you shift to another (person)’.”

He also praised the Asian work ethic, stating that unlike people in the West, Asians tend to take more pride in their work and not view their job as merely a way to make money.

“In the West, it is no longer like that. It’s all about rights, the right to work, the right to work less and be paid more, etc. Those are the current values of the West, and we cannot follow them.

“We must retain our Eastern values,” he said.