UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the world’s largest prime minister pledged on Tuesday to hand power to Anwar Ibrahim, his expected successor, despite new charges of sexual assaults.
Mahathir, 94, said in an interview with Reuters he would not hand over power before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to be hosted by Malaysia in November, but he would be ready to hand it over after that.
“I made a promise to hand over power and I will, and by accepting that, I thought that change just before the APEC summit would delay things,” Mahathir said.
“What concerns me is that I will step down and give him power. If people don’t want it that’s their business, but I will keep what it promised … regardless of any allegations. I made a promise and I’ll fulfill it. ”
Mahathir responded to a question whether the handover of power would take place in December 2020, saying, “We will discuss that when the time comes.”
The troubled relationship between the two men – who were allies and then enmity between them before they re-united in order to gain power – had shaped politics in Malaysia for decades.
Against expectations, Maheter was elected in 2018 as head of a coalition government led by Anwar, 72, whose largest party. Anwar has been imprisoned twice in two different cases relating to sodomy and corruption and says the accusations are politically motivated.
Anwar last week denied new allegations from a former aide that he had tried to force him to have sex with him, and Anwar described the accusations as “politics at its worst.”
This is the second time that Mahathir has been appointed prime minister. He previously held the position for 22 years from 1981 to 2003. Anwar was his deputy from 1993 to 1998 when the two men disagreed. Anwar was imprisoned the following year.
Despite Mahathir’s pledge in his 2018 election campaign to hand power to Anwar, doubts arose about his intentions when he later said he needed more time to get the heavily indebted country out of his troubles.
Mahathir said he hoped to reach an out-of-court settlement with Goldman Sachs soon over a scandal involving the Malaysian Development Fund of Malaysia (MDB1) that drove the prices of the Malaysian bonds higher.
– Never felt tired –
Mahathir, responding to questions posed to him while sitting on a sofa in his elegant office in Putrajaya, said that he did not feel tired despite his age because he was satisfied with his work.
“I try to do simple exercises, but I basically keep my weight steady … I weigh 62 kilograms 30 or 40 years ago, it doesn’t change,” he said. I don’t eat much. I don’t eat … when the food is delicious. I don’t eat too much.”
Besides seeking to become the first leader in the world to host the APEC summit twice, Mahathir is also seeking to cement his position as leader of the Muslim world.
Officials said that a summit scheduled in Kuala Lumpur next week would include the leaders of Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and other Islamic countries. Mahathir said that the summit will discuss the suppression of Muslims in some countries.
This would include an examination of allegations of human rights violations committed against Uygurs in China’s Xinjiang region, he said, adding that the Muslim world has limited opportunities to take action.
“Taking a position is completely different from doing something that will improve this situation. If you take a position, this may increase the pressure, but it will not work.”
“The Islamic world cannot stand up to anyone. We are very weak. Anyone can manipulate us, they can even make us fight each other. This is how we are.”
Mahathir previously said China was too strong to defy it and made a comment on Beijing’s Xinjiang allegations.
Myanmar has not escaped its criticism of the treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority after a 2017 military campaign prompted nearly 700,000 people to flee to Bangladesh.
While Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has defended her country in the face of accusations before the International Court of Justice in The Hague this week, Mahathir said he hoped the violations would be recognized.
“We hope that they can admit that genocide took place and explain what happened … We hope that they will respond in one way or another to world public opinion.”
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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