VIENNA: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, using an international conference here as a global platform, has impressed upon the international community to change its perception of Malaysia as a corrupt and kleptocratic country to a ‘New Malaysia, Clean Malaysia’.
The Prime Minister, addressing the 10th Annual Conference and General Meeting of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities (IAACA), shared his experiences on how difficult it was to mend and put Malaysia back on the right track as a democratic and progressive country.
Dr Mahathir, who was on a three-day working visit to Austria, told the delegates that the IAACA’s role was very important to combat corruption as borders were porous and that international cooperation helped in eradicating graft as what Malaysia had experienced in handling the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal.
He also admitted that the first thing the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government did after coming to power last May was to rebuild the machinery of the government and remove senior government officers who openly and politically supported the Barisan Nasional (BN) – the party that had led Malaysia since its independence in 1957.
“With corruption, a nation cannot grow as it should. This crime hinders development and gives other negative impacts such as a higher cost of living and cost of doing things.
“Many things cannot be done as (government) officers demand money from the public to implement them. Approval will be delayed (if people don’t give bribes),“ he said during a lecture at the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), in Laxenburg, near here Monday.
Dr Mahathir proposed that IAACA set up a fund focused on supporting officers being oppressed, i.e. losing their jobs, facing threat, or even to the extent of being killed, in the line of duty.
IAACA president Dr Ali Fetais Al-Marri said later that the fund was named after Dr Mahathir in honour of his efforts to eradicate corruption.
As a start, Malaysia agreed to donate RM500,000 to the fund. The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al-Thani, agreed to contribute RM1.4 million.
Dr Mahathir has the distinction of being the first Malaysian prime minister invited to IAACA, according to its vice president, Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, who is also the director-general of the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption (GIACC), Malaysia, and former Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief.
“Fighting corruption is one of the many actions of Dr Mahathir that caught international attention (since he took office last May). He is an inspiration to many,“ he added.
Dr Mahathir was Malaysia’s prime minister for 22 years before stepping down in 2003. He again took the helm after his PH coalition won the general election in May last year.
IAACA is an independent, non-political, anti-corruption organisation, composed of institutions responsible for the investigation, prosecution and prevention of corruption around the world, with 140 countries and regions participating in the association through organisational and individual membership.
The objective of the association is to promote the effective implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), fostering constructive collaboration among its members in the prevention and control of corruption, as well as in asset recovery and international cooperation.
Apart from the anti-corruption related events, Dr Mahathir, 93, the oldest elected leader in the world, also caught the attention of the press – local and Malaysian – by meeting the youngest such leader, Federal Chancellor of the Republic of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, 32, at the Federal Chancellery.
Later, during a dialogue session at the Grand Wien Hotel with Malaysians residing in Austria and the Slovak Republic, while responding to a question, he congratulated the person who said that he only works 10 days in a month.
“I would like to congratulate you. Me, at my age, you can’t rest. Time is very short for me and I don’t have enough time for a lot of things that I want to do.
“So, I have to work 30 days a month, 18 hours a day and sleep for six hours. Otherwise, I can’t finish my work. A lot of people waiting to see me (and asking me) to do this and that. So, I need time and I cannot waste time doing nothing,“ he said, eliciting applause from the 100 people in attendance.
Dr Mahathir, who was accompanied by his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali on the current visit, last visited Austria in 1985 during his tenure as the fourth prime minister of Malaysia. — Bernama