KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 12 — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today confirmed that the “arrogant” political aide who “acted like a minister” and irked the business community when Pakatan Harapan (PH) was government was DAP’s Tony Pua. 

The 96-year-old author of Capturing Hope: The Struggle Continues for a New Malaysia added that the Damansara MP held “socialist” views that conflicted with the “capitalist” nature of businessmen.

“Now, business people by definition are capitalists. He doesn’t like capitalists, he’s basically a socialist. But I have a different idea about that because I believe capitalist investments can create wealth, jobs and all that. 

“But he feels that I’m doing this because they are capitalists. That’s not true,” he said during the sales launch of his new book at the MPH Bookstore in Mid Valley Megamall here this morning.

Dr Mahathir said that his main reason in favouring business people is to help develop the country — regardless of the background of the investor. He stressed that this is not cronyism. 

“It’s not because they are capitalists that I favour them. The job is to give a good life to all in Malaysia, rich and poor and different races, and we want to develop the country and this cannot be done only by the rich without the poor working,” he said. 

He also said that he knew a lot of “poor businessmen too” but added that this was not picked up by his critics who only called those who became successful in their enterprises his “cronies”.

“If they fail, they are not my cronies, but if they succeed they are my cronies,” he noted, drily, and pointed out that “the ones who succeed are very few”. 

Dr Mahathir also asserted that he did not just favour capitalists but was on friendly terms with workers’ unions too.

He claimed they were always willing to work with him because his decisions favoured workers. He said Pua, despite being a socialist, was not aware of this. 

“I’m very friendly with the unions and they all work with me because what I did was in favour of them. 

“But Tony Pua, of course, doesn’t notice that. All that I say is true, that he was behaving as if he was a minister and it was causing a lot of problems with the business climate in this country,” Dr Mahathir said. 

The Langkawi MP also pointed out that he had not named the “arrogant” aide directly in his latest book, but Pua revealed himself through three recent public statements.

He added that by responding, Pua showed he was aware of his actions.

“As you know, I didn’t name him. But obviously, he understands what I said was about him, which in itself is proof that what I said is true because why should he respond if it is about somebody else,” Dr Mahathir replied to a reporter asked point blank if he was referring to Tony Pua in the book.

“He is the one who took a long time to respond three times, writing long essays,” he added.

Earlier today, Pua issued a third rebuttal to Dr Mahathir’s alluded remarks in his new memoir.

The DAP politician acknowledged that he may have offended a certain gaming businessman with close links to the former prime minister even as he said he was only guessing the person’s identity and had no confirmation if he was accurate.

Pua pleaded “mea culpa”, a Latin phrase meaning “my fault”, but said that even in hindsight, he would not have acted differently in carrying out his duties as political secretary to then finance minister Lim Guan Eng even now if he were able to turn back the clock.

The back-and-forth between Dr Mahathir and Pua started after news portal MalaysiaNow reported excerpts from the ex-PM’s yet-to-be-launched book and cited a certain unnamed political secretary who behaved arrogantly and overstepped his job scope.

Pua issued the first of his three statements on December 7, which was followed by a response from Dr Mahathir.

The ex-PM said that the “arrogant” attitude purportedly shown by a political secretary to a minister towards investors had cost Malaysia much-needed funds when PH occupied Putrajaya. 

Dr Mahathir claimed several businessmen from the Chinese community had complained about the political secretary’s “arrogance” to him as he was the head of the PH administration back then.