Elias Hj Idris
Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who held the office of Prime Minister for 22 years between 16 July 1981 and 31 October 2003, gave a wide-ranging interview which was published by the Asian Sentinel recently.

Here are 6 things we learnt from it.
(1) Anwar’s sacking was not due to a political conspiracy.
No. According to Mahathir, Anwar’s downfall was purely down to his homosexuality.

“Different people have different cultures,” he says. “In the West, what he does is normal.”
“In our society, that is not acceptable,” Mahathir explains.

Pointing out that Malaysia’s perception of what is criminal and what is not differs from the West, Mahathir adds, “It is our perception in this country that matters to us.”
“We cannot have a person like that (as a leader), with no moral values.”

(2) Mahathir struggled to cope with retirement.
Asked how he coped with retirement, Mahathir said, “It was very unsettling because you move away from a position of power to being just an ordinary person.”
“I thought I would relax, write my memoirs, things like that.”
“It was a little bit depressing.”

(3) Mahathir craved, but never got, ‘elder statesman’ status.
“I didn’t expect such bad treatment by the new prime minister, who basically I elevated to that position,” Mahathir told his interviewer.
“I thought at least not vicious to me. And he was.”
“Within two weeks he changed everything. Rejected all the things I had started, which he promised to deliver.”

At the party’s 57th general assembly in 2006 Abdullah declared an end to Mahathir’s economic legacy and the grandiose projects.

“What he did was not right for the country,” Mahathir claims. “It was an abuse of power that I could not tolerate so I had to come back.”

In 2009, Abdullah resigned, and was replaced by Najib Razak, another of Mahathir’s protégés.

“I had great hopes for him,” Mahathir was quoted in the interview as saying.
“I felt I would have the opportunity to give some views to him.”
“Unfortunately, for the first six months, he totally ignored me.”

Eventually, Mahathir began to express doubts about Najib’s performance.
“I tried to tolerate, I tried to support him during the election, I campaigned for him. But eventually I had to tell him I am not supporting him anymore.”

Mahathir has since the beginning of this year openly called for Najib to resign.

(4) In Malaysia only Mahathir can master freedom of the press.
Mahathir is an active blogger.
The reason I started the blog was [because] I was actually prevented from meeting people, during my successor’s term,” he said.
“Nothing about me can be in the press, except something that is derogatory. Because of that, I had to make use of the media,” he adds.

But on the other hand he claims that there cannot be absolute freedom of the press!
“There are things you just don’t say, because it will destabilise the environment.”
“Malaysia is particularly sensitive: we have three races here and 29 different tribes.”
“We are divided not just by race but by religion, language, culture and economic performance. If you allow people to say what they like, there will be violence, confrontations and all that.

“We need stability.”
He says more freedom of the press has resulted in the different races going at each other’s throats.
“But I have been responsible in the media,” he asserts. “I don’t say things that are not true.”

(5) Mahathir is a moderate Muslim.
According to Mahathir, it is the interpretation of Islam that is wrong, not the religion.
“Islam is a moderate religion. All Muslims should be moderate.”
“There is no such thing as an extreme religion, just an extremist kind of interpretation. And if you are extreme, it is against Islam.”

So now we know where Marina Mahathir gets her views from.

(6) And he is a devoted family man!
Dr Siti Hasmah, his wife of 60 years, was his first and only girlfriend.
They have seven children, three of them adopted.

“I have a close family,” Mahathir says.
Two of his children were adopted from an orphanage in Pakistan.
“I went to Pakistan, saw the situation there, and thought, ‘If they are orphans, I will do a little bit’,” he says.
“I regard them not as adopted children; I regard them as my children. They are given my name.” - FMT

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