KUALA LUMPUR • Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said he will not step down as Malaysia's prime minister until he has resolved the problems facing the country.
The problems, he said, included recovering the billions lost through state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad, finding and trying fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, and stamping out corruption in the public service.
In an interview with the Financial Times published on Wednesday, Dr Mahathir said there was no actual date or time mentioned for him to step down.
"The actual time that I will be there depends on the problems that we face," he said. "I've had some experience solving financial problems, so they want me to solve the problems before I step down.
"I mentioned at the time when they appointed me that I would not be permanently there, that means that I wouldn't finish a whole term."
Asked if he still stood by his insistence that Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim would be the person to succeed him, Dr Mahathir said yes without hesitation and pointed out that he had promised this.
In a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Mahathir reaffirmed that his successor will be Datuk Seri Anwar, and not Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali.
In response, Mr Anwar thanked Dr Mahathir and those who affirmed their support for him to be the next prime minister.
Mr Anwar is to take over the reins from Dr Mahathir before the next general election, due by 2023, under a succession plan agreed on by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition last year.
NOT LETTING HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF
I have made many mistakes in appointing my successors, so I don't want to make another mistake this time.
MALAYSIA PRIME MINISTER MAHATHIR MOHAMAD
But The Straits Times - quoting sources - reported last month that a plan has been hatched to block Mr Anwar's path.
Additionally, there have been calls from within PH as well as the opposition for Dr Mahathir to stay as prime minister until the end of the government's mandate.
In the Financial Times interview, Dr Mahathir was also asked about conspiracy theories that he did not plan to leave the prime minister's post.
The 94-year-old explained that he needed to be careful in appointing a successor due to his previous "mistakes".
"I have made many mistakes in appointing my successors, so I don't want to make another mistake this time," he said.
When asked if his reluctance to relinquish the position quickly also meant he considered himself the only person suited to the challenge of leading Malaysia now, Dr Mahathir said: "At the moment, maybe."
The Prime Minister expressed disappointment with Tun Abdullah Badawi, his immediate successor who took over in 2003, as well as Najib Razak, both of whom rose under Dr Mahathir's guidance.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK