[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Not the Retiring Type
Malaysia's former leader, Mahathir Mohamad, is taking on his successor in a rancorous fight over the future of the nation
Interview: Mahathir Mohamad
"I'm being told you mustn't criticize the Prime Minister"
Extended Interview
TIME's extended interview with Mahathir Mohamad
Interview: Abdullah Badawi
Malaysia's Prime Minister responds

Malaysia Without Anwar
Dr. M battles protesters and his own deputy
I'll Do It My Way
Without Anwar or the global economy, Mahathir goes it alone
Indicates premium content

E-mail your letter to the editor

Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
TIME talks to the Malaysian Prime Minister

Posted Monday, October 30, 2006; 20:00 HKT
When Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi came to power in 2003, it was as the hand-picked successor to his former boss, Mahathir Mohamad. Since then, Mahathir has become increasingly critical of his protégé, largely over what the former Prime Minister saw as a rollback of many of his key projects. But while Mahathir's attacks have grown increasingly strident, the Prime Minister has until recently declined to respond. Now, in a written reply to questions from TIME, Abdullah discusses Mahathir's accusations:

TIME: Why do you think Mahathir is speaking out publicly now?
Abdullah: You really have to ask him this question. His public criticism began with the cancellation of the bridge to Singapore. That is an issue he has raised again and again, and also during our private meeting recently. Although the government has explained extensively why we cancelled the project, he still is not able to accept the decision while the public have moved on.

What do you think Mahathir is hoping to accomplish by speaking out so strongly? Is it a personality issue? Is he worried about his legacy? Or something else?
Again, this question is best directed at him. As far as I am concerned, all of his questions and criticisms have been answered either by myself or by members of my administration. Most of his criticism concern government projects and why they did not go as he wanted. I have explained that this government makes decisions based on priorities and realities which may be different to when he was the prime minister.

You didn't really start fighting back until yesterday. Why are you speaking out now? Was it because Mahathir continued to attack even after meeting with you on Sunday?
I would not like to characterize my statements as fighting back. I have already addressed many of the issues he has raised in an interview that was televised nationally during the height of his attacks. My ministers have also replied. What is important for me is to concentrate on the implementation of the recently launched Ninth Malaysia Plan—our national economic blueprint for the next five years. I choose to focus on this, which is an important mission for me.

He has accused me of not doing anything for the last two years. Well, I had to start off by cutting the budget deficit, reprioritize spending and maintain political stability.

What do you think the ramifications of Mahathir's criticisms will be? Will his comments affect the upcoming UMNO general assembly?
Our economy is still robust and on course to meet our targets. Political stability is not threatened and my party is united. His remarks have had little real effect on politics or business in Malaysia and some have said that it is an unwelcome distraction. The assembly will be a good opportunity for me to refocus my party's energy towards our economic and development agenda, especially for the Malay community.

How do you think your leadership style differs from Mahathir's? Why have you undone some of Mahathir's pet policies?
I have said this many times—our broad vision remains the same. We both want Malaysia to be a developed country by 2020. We largely share the same development strategy. But, of course, implementation may differ. For example, apart from manufacturing and construction I have also stressed the need to develop agro-based industries and the services sectors to provide more broad-based development. I would say that I have had to make certain decisions to protect our country's interests. We are facing all kinds of competitive pressures and we need to ensure that our economic priorities are right.

Do you think Mahathir's comments are bad for Malaysia? If so, why?
He is free to say what he wants. We are a democracy and it is his right to speak. When I became Prime Minister, I encouraged more openness and did not want to muzzle different views, so I suppose this is part of that process. But it is unfortunate that he is making wild allegations and that he does not acknowledge that answers have been given. At the end of the day, Malaysia is still well regarded internationally as an advanced Muslim country and as a good investment destination, despite what he says.

A New Vision for Malaysia [Mar. 15, 2004]
Malaysians expected Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to be cautious, but he has quickly emerged as a bold reformer

Interview with Abdullah [Mar. 15, 2004]
"I Have a Different Style"

Not So Fast [Nov. 24, 2003]
Malaysia's new Prime Minister plays rough with his old boss' favorites

Regime Change [Oct. 13, 2003]
After 22 years in power, Mahathir Mohamad is stepping down. Can Malaysia thrive without him?

Malaysia Under Mahathir [Jul. 18, 2001]
TIME's Simon Elegant on the 20-year rule of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad

More Related Items | Search all issues of TIME Magazine

Table of Contents
Subscribe to TIME

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
QUICK LINKS: Cover Story | Interview: Mahathir Mohamad | Interview: Abdullah Badawi | Back to TIMEasia.com Home

Copyright © 2006 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Subscribe to TIME | Customer Service | FAQ | About TIME Asia | Search | Write to Us | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Press Releases | Media Kit