KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 15 — In a surprising response on live radio this morning, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a man who was twice appointed Malaysia’s prime minister and credited by many for his development of the country in the 1980s, said he doesn’t care about leaving behind a legacy.
“I don’t care about my legacy, I am quite sure when I am dead and gone, people will still run me down.
“And all that will not seem important, I’ll be dead anyway. What legacy?” he quipped on his last question during this morning’s interview on radio station BFM.
Dr Mahathir, 95, had been an Umno member for more than 60 years before he quit the party in 2016 after a fallout between him and then party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, sparked by the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal.
During his first stint, the former practising doctor reigned as prime minister for 22 years, from 1981 to 2003, before becoming a vocal critic of his successors, which eventually led to his exit from the party.
In the interview, Dr Mahathir conceded that despite the many positive and inspiring moments throughout his first stint, there were issues of corruption that were not dealt with, but suggested they were nowhere near as dire as the situation Najib faced.
“Yes there was corruption, but not to the point that the prime minister was also corrupt; when the prime minister stole money, everyone knew that the prime minister took billions of ringgit.
“Did I steal money?” he then questioned, in an obvious reference to Najib.
When pressed as to whether he was indeed on the take, Dr Mahathir replied in the negative.
“I didn’t steal one sen. I gave back my money when I became the prime minister; I insisted the Cabinet cuts their salary by 10 per cent, so I actually gave back my money,” he added.
The same year he left Umno, Dr Mahathir went on to form Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) with fellow MPs who defected from Umno, including current Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, where they went up against their former party and won the 2018 general election under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
In late February last year, Dr Mahathir resigned as prime minister and chairman of his party after Bersatu found itself at the centre of a coup that led to the collapse of PH.
He served as interim prime minister for about a week before Muhyiddin was installed as the eighth prime minister.
Since his departure from Bersatu, Dr Mahathir has formed Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, which has yet to be officially registered as a political party after a bid to do so was rejected by the Registrar of Societies early this year.