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Daim: Corruption has permeated all levels of Malaysia's govt

Former Malaysian finance minister says he met Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Anwar Ibrahim in prison

In an hour-long interview with The Star, Malaysia's former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, who is in the newly formed Council of Eminent Persons (CEP), shared his views on politics, besides giving an insight into his relationship with some Malaysian leaders. Here are excerpts of the interview:

The Star: What are the biggest challenges for the CEP? Are you confident Malaysia can overcome the challenges, particularly corruption?

Mr Daim: Malaysia has no choice. Corruption has permeated all levels in the government. We are now at a crossroad. Our only way forward is to cleanse the system and get rid of this malady that is afflicting this nation. In order to do that, political willpower will be the main criterion for success. And I am confident that this new Pakatan Harapan Government has the gumption to do just that.

People are watching. The biggest challenge for the council is the time frame. We are working hard to develop the best recommendations for the Government to chew upon, based on the 100-day promises laid out in the Pakatan manifesto during the election campaign. Can we overcome major challenges? We have faced two major economic crises before (in 1987 and 1998), and we overcame them.

Will Barisan play an effective role as Opposition? Do you think Umno has the capability to retake the Government?

For an Opposition to become effective, they need to have credibility. Right now what kind of credibility has Barisan got? If you don't have it, people will find it hard to trust you. Up till today, there is no apology from any of the leaders in Umno. They are still unrepentant. The stealers of 1MDB money are still in denial, claiming they had done nothing wrong.

Can Umno rely on its youth wing to speed up the reformation process?

It will be difficult, due to the fact that all of its youth wing, including its chief, defended 1MDB back then.

If they had read the US Department of Justice report, the Public Accounts Committee report and the Auditor-General's report and yet still have the audacity to support the crimes committed, then they should not be the role models for the youth in Malaysia. They have shown no remorse. I doubt they can retake the Government with the current crop of leaders.

In order to have a vibrant and lively democracy, we need a strong Opposition. If Umno realises this and makes the necessary changes, that will be their role.

Do you think Dr Mahathir will stay beyond two years?

In his interview with the Financial Times last Monday, he stated it would be difficult for him to stay on as Prime Minister beyond the age of 95. But for now, I think everyone knows that he is committed to fulfilling the promises in Pakatan's manifesto.

How is your relationship with Anwar Ibrahim? Both of you were critical of each other in the past. Do you think he can be a good prime minister?

We have always been friends but politics is different. Anwar and I have known each other for a long time. I just want to mention I met him in prison numerous times. We discussed how to topple the previous government and with the support of the rakyat, we succeeded. We must stay united and deliver (on) our promises to them.

Anwar had served in various ministries and his last post was deputy prime minister. Nobody can run a government alone. A PM needs a Cabinet that supports him and honest civil servants with integrity. He also needs good, honest advisers and must never forget the rakyat. Anwar is aware of all these.

- THE STAR/ANN

WORLD