KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad acknowledged claims of corruption against him from his previous stint as prime minister today but said these remain unsubstantiated.
He insisted that he lived modestly with his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, but this still has not stopped the allegations against him.
“But of course, lots of people say, when you were the prime minister previously, you were also corrupt. Well, that is the accusation levelled at me. But what is the proof?
“Did I buy diamonds to give to my wife? I didn't.
“In fact, we live a very ordinary life. Even my house is not something grand but still you accused me of corruption,” he told the audience at an event titled “Conversation: Legacies in Transition Reinvent or Retain” hosted by Bank Rakyat today.
Dr Mahathir claimed it was his successors who introduced cronyism and nepotism into the government, such as prioritising their family for jobs and contracts.
He said this indirectly hampered economic growth by entrenching corruption and raising the cost of doing business.
The prime minister said this was why his administration was taking a hard stance against corruption.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that his government has also encouraged civil servants to be more outspoken when spotting corruption in the administration and not to be servile.
“I believe it is impossible to completely eradicate corruption, but at least at the higher level, we don't see corruption today.
“Unless, of course, you think I am corrupt. You are entitled to think that but what is the evidence of corruption that you see in the government today?” he said.
Dr Mahathir is both the country’s fourth and seventh prime minister, after leading Pakatan Harapan to victory in the general election.
His immediate predecessor, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, is currently on trial over various charges related to the 1MDB corruption scandal.