Dr Mahathir says 2003 resignations as PM, Umno president among biggest regrets

Tun Dr Mahathir revealed that his decision to resign as the then prime minister and president of Umno in 2003 would go down as one of his biggest regrets. — File picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Tun Dr Mahathir revealed that his decision to resign as the then prime minister and president of Umno in 2003 would go down as one of his biggest regrets. — File picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 17 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad revealed he had assumed that life would take on a more laid-back pace after resigning as the prime minister back in 2003, only for those hopes to be dashed just several days later.

The nonagenarian, who turns 95 in July, when asked if he ever considered leaving politics after so many years to allow the younger generation to lead, said that was his actual intention for resigning.

However, Dr Mahathir said certain parties had pleaded with him to “do something” with the then administration, saying, from that point on, he knew it would be hard to enjoy a retirement away from the government.

“I stopped in 2003 because I wanted to give a chance to the younger generation, but just a few days after I resigned, people started coming to me, droves of them, pleading for help.

“I told them I wanted to take a rest, but they still came, so how am I to reject them?” he said during an interview with Sinar Harian which was streamed “live” on Facebook earlier today.

Dr Mahathir also revealed that his decision to resign as the then prime minister and president of Umno that year would go down as one of his biggest regrets.

“I feel that my biggest regret is when I resigned back in 2003; no one asked me to quit and I was still popular with two-thirds support.

“But I felt it was time to resign, I thought I was old at 72 so that’s why I decided to resign, but I never thought that my predecessors would be involved in such things,” he said.

In contrast, Dr Mahathir revealed that his decision to resign as the PM last year would not go down as a regret, saying circumstances forced his hand after he was betrayed by his colleagues in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

“I had to. My party and coalition had collapsed,” he said in an audibly-raised tone.

Later on, when asked how he maintains his fighting spirit and will to be a lawmaker well into his 90s, Dr Mahathir offered a simple reply.

“It is my love for the nation,” he said, while obviously trying to keep his emotions in check.

“The desire to want to help the nation is important, and after all, this is my country.

“So I feel all that is being done in the country, like the corruption, will ultimately harm the country,” he added.

In 2003, after 22 years as the prime minister, Dr Mahathir decided to resign from all political roles.

However, in 2016, he and fellow Umno defector Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin formed Bersatu with a group of former Umno lawmakers.

The party became part of the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition following the historic 14th general elections.

Despite the euphoria that followed, PH’s reign was cut short after 22 months, following Muhyiddin’s decision, as Bersatu president, to form a new coalition comprising parties from Barisan Nasional such as Umno, MIC and MCA, Islamist party PAS, and a faction of PKR defectors led by Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

The hastily cobbled-together coalition was later named Perikatan Nasional, the product of a weeklong political impasse in late February 2020 now dubbed ‘The Sheraton Move’.

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