Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad acknowledged claims of corruption against him from his previous stint as prime minister today but said these remain unsubstantiated.
He insisted that he lived modestly with his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, but this still has not stopped the allegations against him.
“But of course, lots of people say, when you were the prime minister previously, you were also corrupt. Well, that is the accusation levelled at me. But what is the proof?
“Did I buy diamonds to give to my wife? I didn’t.
“In fact, we live a very ordinary life. Even my house is not something grand but still you accused me of corruption,” he told the audience at an event titled “Conversation: Legacies in Transition Reinvent or Retain” hosted by Bank Rakyat today.
Dr Mahathir claimed it was his successors who introduced cronyism and nepotism into the government, such as prioritising their family for jobs and contracts.
He said this indirectly hampered economic growth by entrenching corruption and raising the cost of doing business.
The prime minister said this was why his administration was taking a hard stance against corruption.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that his government has also encouraged civil servants to be more outspoken when spotting corruption in the administration and not to be servile.
“I believe it is impossible to completely eradicate corruption, but at least at the higher level, we don’t see corruption today.
“Unless, of course, you think I am corrupt. You are entitled to think that but what is the evidence of corruption that you see in the government today?” he said.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad has defended Pakatan Harapan as an administration committed to eradicating corruption and taking action against those involved in such practices, regardless of their status.
Speaking at a public dialogue with Bank Rakyat chairperson Noripah Kamso this morning, he cautioned that a country plagued by corruption would struggle to progress due to inflated costs.
“Of course, lots of people say ‘well, when you were PM you were also corrupt’. Well, that is the accusation levelled at me, but what is the proof?
“Did I ever buy diamonds or take RM37 million and give to my wife? I didn’t.
“In fact, we live a very ordinary life, even my house is not something very grand but still you are accused of corruption. But we have to accept it, the accusations will come (but) what is important is that you don’t get corrupted with the power that you wield,” he said at the bank’s Integrity Forum.
Mahathir was last prime minister from 1981 to 2003 before assuming the role a second time in 2018.
Elaborating, he said there was no corruption at “high levels” in the Harapan administration.
He stressed that combating graft remained a priority.
“On other things, of course (we) may be inexperienced (and) it takes us a little bit more time to do, but the eradication of corruption has been given priority by this government…
“No one is above the law, even if there is evidence that the prime minister is corrupt, action must be taken.
“People must be free to discuss to talk (and) to accuse (if) there is evidence. But of course, sometimes the people also make full use of freedom of the press to create fake information, and that we have to deal with,” he said.
Mahathir’s comments were in response to Noripah’s question on what were the government’s plans to strengthen ethics, integrity and governance at regulatory and oversight bodies.
Today’s dialogue was followed by an integrity oath-swearing ceremony by some 90 Bank Rakyat management officials.
An agency under the Entrepreneurship Development Ministry, the bank also launched its “no gift” policy at the forum.