Putrajaya—In an exclusive interview with The New Straits Times, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad spoke candidly about two other leaders, his predecessor Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and his presumptive successor, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
He emphasized that choosing to work with Mr Anwar was a decision that far outweighed allowing Mr Najib to rule the country.
Moreover, while he had openly questioned and even criticised Mr Anwar’s leadership abilities, Mr Najib, in his opinion, was a poorer leader than Mr Anwar.
In the interview, the Malaysian Prime Minister actually called his predecessor “the worst leader.”
On his critical comments about Mr Anwar, Dr Mahatir said, “Well, that was before. Yes, I did say that. But between Najib and Anwar, I think Najib is a worse leader than Anwar. The worst leader.”
He added, “I think that to have Anwar replace a person like Najib is more acceptable than to have Najib carry on, so I decided that I would work (with) Anwar, whatever I may have said about him, whatever he has said against me before.
I knew if we didn’t work together, Najib would be the next prime minister and that would be disastrous for the country.”
When asked by the editors of The New Straits Times whether Mr Anwar would be able to keep the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition together, Dr Mahathir expressed his confidence in Mr Anwar.
“I think he has been leading a considerable part of Pakatan Harapan. In fact, he was the architect of Pakatan Rakyat. Of course, Pakatan Rakyat failed because they were not that cohesive. But after we came together, we were able to work much more closely.
The fact remains that he was from Umno, and Umno, of course, was not very liked by the opposition. He left Umno and he was able to bring DAP, PAS even, and his party together, so he has leadership qualities.”
Dr Mahathir also said that as former Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anwar would know how to keep the party working together, and he also mentioned that current Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan has taken his place in cabinet meetings when necessary. Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan is the spouse of Mr Anwar.
“So far, I have been able to lead. We don’t see any substitute yet at the moment, but there have been occasions when I left the cabinet and Wan Azizah was leading and she was able to conduct the meetings, at least for the short period I was away. There was once when I was out of the country, she conducted the meeting.
So, in a sense, the structure is expected. Now, who fills in after me, or after Wan Azizah, is something else. Of course, what we say is that Anwar will take over. Anwar has been a deputy prime minister before. He ought to know how to keep the party together.”
The editors of the New Straits Times noted that Dr Mahatir had actually been a contributor to the newspaper, then The Straits Times, more than 7 decades ago. He was still a college student back then and wrote under the pseudonym C.H.E. Det.
They wrote in an introduction to the interview, “For the NST, the interview with Dr Mahathir was long overdue. We did not merely interview a sitting prime minister. We spoke to Che Det, who has been a part of the national conversation for seven decades.
And the good doctor gave us his prognosis of things that have gone wrong, and how we as a nation should address those frailties.
Thank you, Che Det.” /TISG