PETALING JAYA,Feb 5: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, accused of not being as assertive as before, has said that it was not his leadership style that changed, but that circumstances had changed.
He no longer enjoyed the dominant majority of the Barisan Nasional (BN) which he led from 1981 to 2003, but was head of a different coalition of five parties that governed with only a simple majority.
Even so, he showed that he could run an efficient government “better than the current one” and managed to get rid of deadwood in the administration, Mahathir said in a special interview with FMT.
Mahathir’s leadership of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government of 2018-2020 has been questioned by former attorney-general Tommy Thomas, who wrote in his memoir “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”, that Mahathir lacked the authority he had displayed when heading the BN government.
Thomas said the PH coalition lacked cohesion among the leaders of component parties. “Cabinet ministers, sometimes from the same party, were publicly taking positions contrary to that of the Cabinet or of their colleagues”
Mahathir said the PH government did not enjoy the two-third majority he had had with Umno and Barisan Nasional.
“I only had a (simple) majority, and the majority came from five different parties, each one with their own objectives and plans for the country. I needed to have their agreement,” he said. “Without their agreement, I could not function, but actually they had not been an obstacle to me.”
He said that by keeping representation in his cabinet equal between PPBM and DAP despite the disparity in the number of parliamentary seats they each held, he was able to get the green light to perform most of the actions he felt needed to be taken.
After the 2018 elections, PPBM had 13 seats while DAP had 42, but both were given six ministerial positions.
“I was able to handle the financial crisis, debts, I was able to get rid of politicians who were heading companies and institutions, and I was able to get top civil servants who were involved with corruption to leave the government.”
He said that he had solid backing from his administration, adding that while the opposition condemned PH as ‘non-Malay’, “the government was doing very well.”
“Certainly better than what Muhyiddin is doing now,” whose slim government majority had him on “tenterhooks.”
“He doesn’t know his position. Two people leave the party and he is down, but when PH was in government, we had no fear about that.”