Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has justified allegations of his administration’s flip-flops on various issues, as something necessary, to right wrong decisions made.
Speaking to the New Straits Times (NST) in an exclusive interview, the premier said sticking to a move despite knowing it is wrong, would be a “stupid decision to take”.
Mahathir was responding to a question on the perceptions of delay in Pakatan Harapan implementing its election promises, and the various flip-flops it had made on several major policy decisions.
“We are working on it, but it’s not an overnight change. As you go along, you meet a lot of problems. You introduce a system and then find that the system is wrong. You need to make corrections. You can’t say, ‘I have decided this. Right or wrong, you must go ahead’. That is a stupid position to take, just because you want to say, ‘Oh, I don’t flip-flop’.
“But flip-flop is necessary when you find that what you have done is wrong. But, of course, before you do it, you must study things very carefully, know all the facts, all the background, before you make a decision. That is what we are doing now,” said the Harapan chairperson.
Finding the solution can take time, he added.
“For example, when we stopped contracts given out by the government, we found that the effect was worse than we thought. You are thinking of stopping the contract, but we are creating unemployment. So when we find that out, we can’t say, ‘Oh, we have decided. No change’. That is bad. You have to tackle this problem.
“So when we realise that, we need to reverse our decision. If we don’t reverse just because we want to maintain a decision without being accused of flip-flopping, we would do injustice to a lot of people.”
Asked about the fate of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), Mahathir said the project would go on, albeit on a lesser scale and at a lower cost.
His administration is still trying to negotiate a better deal with Beijing to build the ECRL, which it had alleged was signed on lopsided terms by the previous government.
“That is what we’re aiming for, but at the moment we need to have the agreement of the contractor. If we terminate the contract, we have to pay compensation. Huge compensation. If we go on, we don’t have to pay compensation, but the cost will be less. So this is still ongoing.
“It has not been easy for us to persuade the contractor that ‘you have to reduce your cost’, ‘you have to reduce the scale’, all these things. Of course, the contractor entered into this contract hoping to make a lot of money, but we are trying to reduce the amount that he can make. Naturally, he is not very willing to reduce the contract value because he wants to make money,” he said, adding that no deadline has been set for the negotiations of the ECRL project.
On the reduction of the country’s current RM1 trillion debt, Mahathir said his administration aims to retire about RM800 billion in three years, which would make the country “quite comfortable”. – Malaysiakini