1MDB scandal united new government led by 'Mahathir 2.0': Lim Guan Eng

1MDB scandal united new government led by 'Mahathir 2.0': Lim Guan Eng

Malaysia’s new Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng blames former Prime Minister Najib Razak for the country’s staggering debts and talks about his uphill task to restore Malaysia’s economic fortunes.

KUALA LUMPUR: It was the scandal involving state investment firm 1MDB, which was set up by former prime minister Najib Razak, that has united the new government, said Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng. 

Mr Lim is also secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), one of four parties in the Pakatan Harapan coalition. Despite different party ideologies, the coalition went on to defeat the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in the May 9 polls, for the first time since Malaysia's independence.

In an interview with Channel NewsAsia's Conversation With, Mr Lim was asked what it has been like to work with and advise Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad - a man the DAP had once fiercely opposed.

"Sometimes if you look back ... if you ask me that question 10 years ago, I would have definitely said no - I wouldn’t believe that this would happen," he said.

"But, I think in a certain sense, Najib brought all of us together. Because of 1MDB, we were not only able to unite, to change the government, we were able to bring about a fresh impetus to reforms ... And also, well, to put our heads together to save the country."

Dr Mahathir had left the party he led for decades, the United Malays National Organisation, over Mr Najib's leadership. He later formed his own party, Bersatu, and joined forces with the Pakatan Harapan coalition, led by his former nemesis Anwar Ibrahim.

Observers have questioned how long this pact will last given the different personalities and politics within Pakatan Harapan. Dr Mahathir too was once slammed as a symbol of cronyism and authoritarianism by his coalition-mates.

Asked about criticisms that Dr Mahathir may be bringing in "cronies" now, Mr Lim responded that the 92-year-old has changed.

"This is a very different Dr Mahathir from, well the version 2.0 (now)," he told Channel NewsAsia. "Tun is very impatient to carry out reforms and at every Cabinet meeting he allows us to speak freely."

Mr Lim added that Dr Mahathir insists on the observance of the rule of law.

"He emphasises that, of course, even though we suffered under the previous government, he himself suffered, but ... we should not seek revenge," he said.

"Our duty is to create a better country, not to seek revenge on our political opponents. If they have done wrong, let us ensure that the rule of law and due process has been observed. Let us ensure that they are given a fair trial in court."

Mr Lim also said that Dr Mahathir is committed to fulfilling pledges made by Pakatan Harapan.

"He said that he wanted to take up the education ministry portfolio but when it was pointed out to him that that was contrary to (the) Pakatan Harapan manifesto, he immediately backtracked and gave the ministry to another person," he said.

"Now, would he have done the same under Mahathir version 1.0? Perhaps not. But the present Tun Dr M has shown his reformist spirit, and that he intends to be a man of his word. 

"So I think this augurs for, as I said, a new Malaysia that has freedom of expression, freedom of press, freedom of information, and of course, the flowering of democracy."

Source: CNA/na/(gs)