Once jailed by his current boss, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was a different man now, a “version 2.0” who was pro-reform.
The DAP secretary-general told The New York Times (NYT) in an interview that he had not forgotten the old Dr Mahathir, who was called a dictator, but said that it was more important to look forward.
Dr Mahathir is prime minister for the second time after leading Pakatan Harapan to victory in the May 9 election.
His leadership of the pact was earlier attacked by critics, plenty of them from civil society, who questioned his sincerity for reforms given that he had begun the erosion of institutional independence, curtailed civil liberties and birthed a culture of cronyism during his years as prime minister from 1981 to 2003.
“I think it’s Mahathir version 2.0.
“I think it’s very different from the version 1.0 we saw when he first became prime minister. He’s more reformist,” Lim was quoted as saying by the NYT.
Since taking the helm on May 10, Dr Mahathir has kept a punishing schedule which recently included his first working visit overseas to Japan.
Lim said Dr Mahathir was on a mission and was being driven by the pressure “to get things done in the shortest possible time”.
Dr Mahathir is still trying to cobble his full cabinet together, a task made difficult by the fact that he desires a smaller cabinet but has to balance demands for representation from PH’s four component parties.
He has also been busy dismantling old structures under the Najib Razak administration and putting the axe to certain top civil servants and key posts, replacing the attorney-general, the anti-corruption body’s chief, and ensuring the resignations of the chief justice and court of appeal president.
The PH administration has also made its priority the prosecution of those involved in the 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal.
Lim told the NYT that he had “nightmares” daily at the thought of what else he would uncover, while Dr Mahathir told the newspaper that “the more we look into the previous administration, the more bad things we find”.
The PH government believes it can recover some of 1MDB’s money back to Malaysia if it can prosecute those who stole funds from the state investment arm.
This is in addition to the government’s austerity drive that includes chopping or renegotiating some big-ticket infrastructure projects signed under Najib’s administration.
Putrajaya has put Malaysia’s debt at RM1 trillion, or 80% of the country’s GDP; worse than what Najib’s government led Malaysians to believe.
Najib is under investigation for money-laundering over the transfer of RM42 million through a former 1MDB subsidiary, SRC International, to his personal bank accounts.
In the United States, the Department of Justice is investigating the theft of US$4.5 billion (RM18 billion) from 1MDB that is said to have been spent on luxury properties, a yacht, movie rights and jewellery, with others such as Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho involved. – TMI