It has become the standard question at every interview — how Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is reacting to criticisms by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. On CNN’s Talk Asia, the Prime Minister answers a series of questions on what sparked the testy relationship and whether he is courting political suicide by disagreeing with his predecessor.

PM on CNN Talk Asia: ‘Bridge nothing to do
with issue of integrity’

From New Sunday Times Online of October 15, 2006

Q: Another of your relationships which is getting a lot of Press at the moment is your relationship with Dr Mahathir Mohamad, your predecessor. Things look extremely testy at the moment. What’s it all about?
A: Well he doesn’t agree with some of the things that I’m doing. Some of it has to do with some of the projects that he decided that we should implement. And that’s all there is to it, nothing more. That’s how it all started.
Q: Still though he was the Prime Minister for 22 years, he’s still got a lot of people who respect him and hold him in the highest regard. Do you worry that by taking him on in this fashion that you might be committing political suicide?
A: No, no, no. I don’t think it’s political suicide. He has been saying a lot of things, I have decided to keep quiet and to go on doing what I want to do. And people want me to do what I want to do. And I still command majority support today.
Q: One of the things that he said against you is that you’ve turned Malaysia into a gutless nation. Not least because you’ve pulled out of this plan of the construction of a bridge linking Malaysia and Singapore. Do you think he’s got a fair point there when you know, he might see you as rolling back everything that he put into place?
A: No! Vision 2020, his biggest achievement, that’s my target too. That we share, I share the vision. I have developed what I call a national mission. The mission is very big, in order to achieve that vision. My plan is not just for the Ninth Malaysia Plan, my plan is for the Ninth Malaysia Plan, the Tenth Malaysia Plan, for the Eleventh Malaysia Plan.
Q: But huge construction projects, like the bridge for example, you know, that was one of his babies, it was something that he worked for many years on. Now he’s seeing you ditch it.
A: We discussed in the Cabinet, we felt that no, we’ll not do it. We’re very practical about our approach, and the bridge has nothing to do with the life and death of Malaysia. It has nothing to do with the issue of integrity, it’s a very practical issue. And for that reason we feel that we won’t have the bridge. We can do other things to develop Malaysia.
Q: If he had not been in power, if he hadn’t ruled the country the way he did, would you accept that Malaysia might have been less of a success than it is today.
A: He was our prime minister, he was our leader, he was a leader for 22 years. He has achieved considerable success for Malaysia. We are proud of his achievement. That’s a fact. But today, when he begins his criticisms, not everybody appreciates it, not everybody.

This country that we love belongs to all of us...

By Anis Ibrahim (From New Sunday Times Online of October 15, 2006)

KUALA LUMPUR: Chinese in Malaysia are better off than Malays. And they are successful because there are opportunities for them to do well in the country, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
As such, it was baseless for Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew to say that Chinese here were marginalised.
Abdullah was asked to comment on Lee's statement during an interview on CNN's Talk Asia segment yesterday.
He was interviewed on a range of issues, including the testy relationship with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the perception of Islam post-9/11.
Last month, Lee told an international forum that the attitude of Malaysia and Indonesia towards Singapore was shaped by the way they treated their own ethnic Chinese minorities.
Lee's statement angered Malaysians, prompting Abdullah to write to him seeking an explanation.
The PM said that Lee had no reason to raise the issue. "The Chinese here are better off than the indigenous people, the Malays," he said.
When the interviewer pointed out that Lee had suggested the Chinese were marginalised because they were successful, Abdullah replied: "No, they are successful because we give them opportunities.
"We allow their children to go to Chinese schools, vocational schools, to learn Mandarin. And they practise their culture.
"Chinese New Year is celebrated not only by them, but also by the Malays, the Indians — the Muslims and the Hindus. We have mutual respect."
During the interview, he made it clear that Malaysia belonged to all races.
"Differences between the communities do exist because of the cultural diversity. But we celebrate these differences.
"What we all desire is to be together, to live a life that is peaceful.
"We want to respect others who don’t belong to our ethnic group, who’re not of the same religion. (We have) a desire to be friendly and to do things together. And, most importantly, this country that we love belongs to all of us, that is Malaysia."
During the interview, Abdullah said that the Quran does not condone violence. And those who resorted to violence had clearly misinterpreted the Holy Book.
"There are specific commandments by God that one should not create or cause violence, especially when it destroys something you’ve already achieved."
But he admitted it was difficult to persuade the rest of the world that Islam was a religion of peace after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks and the Bali bombings.
"Of course, when incidents like that happen, it is going to be very, very difficult for us to explain. Especially if those involved say ‘we have done it in the name of Islam’. That becomes a real problem."
He said there should be more dialogue between Islam and the West.
"Sept 11, 2001 caused a lot of sadness and the views of the non-Muslims towards Islam has changed dramatically since.
"Today, there doesn’t seem to be any mutual understanding to create better rapport between the two.
"To me that is the cause of what we are seeing today. There should be more discussions on how to bring us together, rather than talking about terrorism."
Abdullah said the West failed to understand that religion was very important to a Muslim.
"To a Muslim, religion is very important. Religion to the Muslim is not kept at home. It is not a matter for the relatives.
"In the corporate sector, in his business, in the government, in whatever he does, he is very much dictated by the teachings of Islam."

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