KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday (Jun 11) that he is prepared to stay on as Malaysian Prime Minister beyond two years if that was what the public wanted, signalling a possible change in his original stance that he would only be the interim prime minister for up to two years.
He made the comments at a question and answer session after delivering a keynote address at the Nikkei conference in Tokyo.
“I will continue to serve the people for two years or more, if the people want me, I will accede to their wishes.
“But of course, I don't know how long I myself will last," he said, adding that he will be 95 years old in two years' time.
"It will be a record if I reach 95 and still be prime minister," he joked.
Under a deal cut with the Pakatan Harapan (PH) four-party coalition before the May 9 election , Dr Mahathir is to hand over power to de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim after a year or two.
After his release from prison, Anwar indicated that he would seek a return to political office through contesting in a by-election by the end of the year, although no details have been worked out.
Earlier at the conference, Dr Mahathir also expressed Malaysia’s interest to start a new national car project with a company in another Southeast Asian country.
National carmaker Proton, which was once his pet project, was sold to China automotive company Geely last year.
"Our ambition is to start a (new) national car with partners in the region," he said, mentioning countries such as Japan, China, South Korea and Thailand.
Dr Mahathir said these countries were able to produce quality and marketable cars.
"We want to access world markets (with the new car project)," he added.
Dr Mahathir also commented on the impending Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, and said that the world should make use of the new attitude of North Korea’s leader and work towards easing tension in the region .
"Today he is making effort to have better relationship even with the United States. We should not be cynical about that, we should full use of this attitude by North Korea to reduce tension in the South China Sea," Dr Mahathir said.
Dr Mahathir is on a three-day working visit to Tokyo, his first overseas trip since he was sworn in as 7th prime minister on May 10.