PUTRAJAYA • Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he has one big wish for the new year - for the new Malaysian government to wipe out corruption.
Making the country "clean" is a very important mission for the seven-month-old Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, as the previous government collapsed due to corruption and abuse of power, he told Sin Chew Daily in an interview.
"We have to avoid corruption. We will act against those who are involved, even if they are holding high positions," he said.
Tun Dr Mahathir said everyone should abide by the law, from the Malay rulers down to regular citizens, because the entire system would be damaged without rule of law.
The interview was conducted on Monday, the last day of 2018.
Now 93, Dr Mahathir became Prime Minister in May last year for the second time, after PH unexpectedly knocked out the Barisan Nasional (BN) government that had ruled Malaysia for 61 years.
Dr Mahathir was prime minister for 22 years between 1981 and 2003, when Malaysia grew at its fastest pace and complaints about corruption rose.
"The government is occupied with restoring the administration and to carry out reform," he said.
The Premier said his government has delivered on many issues in the last seven months, but faces many other challenges including a smooth execution of PH policy and cleaning up the government to build a "new Malaysia".
Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) last week faced criticism after one of its vice-presidents demanded that government contracts be channelled to its grassroots leaders to strengthen their finances.
The Prime Minister said the new government has discarded the practice of handing out goodies to party members like BN did in the past such as awarding contracts to cronies or appointing party members to official positions.
But many in PPBM are not used to these new practices, he said, adding that the administration is firm on its battle against corruption and abuse.
"In the past, we saw that the law and enforcement agencies in charge of corruption were unable to stop bribery in the government. But now we are going all out against corruption," he said. "Even if we have not totally eradicated graft, at least corruption has been reduced. This is a new Malaysia."
He admitted that some PPBM members have been unable to accept the transparency practised by the new government.
"Those who have helped us to secure victory now feel that they have been neglected. I feel this is unfair to them," Dr Mahathir said.
"If they can deliver (in government contracts), those who qualify should be arranged to be placed at the right position. But not the practice of giving them goodies like Umno such as awarding them contracts. This is not allowed."
Dr Mahathir did not deny that Malaysia had corruption issues when he was the prime minister for 22 years.
"But the corruption did not take place at the prime minister level but lower-ranking government officials. Now we are going to remove them," he said.