Dr Mahathir Mohamad has described his responsibility as prime minister this time as three times heavier.
Mahathir, who was also Malaysia’s fourth prime minister from 1981 to 2003, explained that when he took over as PM then, the situation of the administration was very “clean” and finances were good.
The 94-year-old statesman who was picked to be PM again after the Pakatan Harapan coalition won the 14th general election (GE14) in May last year, said this time around, he had to take over an administration that was “dirty” (corruption-riddled).
“We were also saddled with debts left behind by the previous administration, by right we would have been able to use this money if it was indeed invested but is missing. So we are forced to service the debts but the original source of the funds are gone. It is a big burden on us.
“(This time) Three times heavier (the responsibility) and furthermore because of my age, I have to work as hard as I can because I have promised to step down. My time (as PM) might be three years, maybe two years.
“In that time, I have to finish work that needs eight to 10 years, I have to run faster,” he said in an interview titled “Mahathir Bicara Ulama dan Jokowi: Catatan Najwa” with Indonesian media personality Najwa Shihab, that was uploaded on YouTube.
Mahathir created history by becoming the world’s oldest elected leader when he returned to Putrajaya after the Harapan coalition booted out the BN which had been power in the country for six decades.
In the interview, the prime minister was asked a wide range of questions touching on religious education, politics, international affairs, Malaysia-Indonesia relations and his personal life.
On the transition of power to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and how he saw his role thereafter, Mahathir said Anwar had the right to come up with his own policies and that he was open to giving advice.
“He (Anwar) will become prime minister, it will up to the prime minister to determine his own policies.
If I am asked, I might be able to give advice, opinions. If I am asked, but I won’t force anyone to ask me,” he said.
On his views about Indonesian President Joko Widodo, better known as Jokowi, Mahathir described him as a leader who brought about new thinking.
“President Jokowi is aware of the need to develop Indonesia and he pays attention to not only politics but also economic growth,” he said.