PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (Reuters) - Malaysia's prime minister said on Wednesday he harboured no ill-will over bitter criticism of his administration by predecessor Mahathir Mohamad, the Southeast Asian nation's longest-serving premier.
"Why should I have any ill-feelings towards anybody?" said Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, making his first public comments on the rift with his former mentor. Although he had felt hurt at the criticism, he overcame it quickly, he said.
"When I see him, I will greet him, I will shake his hands, and if there is time to speak, I will say a few words," Abdullah told reporters in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, when asked to describe his relationship with Mahathir.
Abdullah, whose government last week took the unusual step of declassifying official documents to rebut Mahathir's charges, said the former leader must accept the government needed to change its policies to suit the changing needs of the people.
"The government is based on continuity, but we have to make adjustments to projects from time to time," he added. "We don't have any other agenda. If we don't take into account the people's interests, we will be punished during elections."
Abdullah's remarks appeared to signal a retreat from a vow of "open war" made by a government minister last month against Mahathir, who ruled the country for 22 years before stepping down in favour of handpicked successor Abdullah.
Political analysts had warned the escalating row could unnerve foreign investors and cause a deep split in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the ruling party headed by Abdullah, but in which Mahathir still commands powerful support.
The two men have fallen out mainly over Abdullah's decisions to scrap major state projects initiated by Mahathir's administration, but until now, Abdullah had largely left his ministers to respond to the attacks.
PUTRAJAYA, July 21 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Friday his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin is not his adviser who influenced him in the country's administration as alleged by certain quarters.
The Prime Minister said he could not avoid from being faced with various parties who tried to influence him, but whatever decisions he made were his after considering the best options for the people and the nation.
"My son-in-law is not an adviser to me. He has worked for me before. Perhaps as my employee, he was involved in giving his analyses and opinions on various issues.
"Now he no longer works for me, he has resigned. He knows people are making a lot of noise. He is no longer involved. So, why are these allegations made?" said Abdullah.
The Prime Minister was asked on allegations that he was influenced by other parties, including Khairy, in the administration of the country, at a press conference after chairing the 100th meeting of Menteris Besar and Chief Ministers here.
Khairy, 30, began as a speech writer for Abdullah in 1999 and was later appointed special assistant when Abdullah was Deputy Prime Minister. He resigned as deputy private secretary to the Prime Minister-cum-director of the Policy and Communications Division in June 2004.
Asked whether he was hurt by such talks, Abdullah said: "I heard all sorts of things being said. I have feelings too. There were times I was saddened by the things that were said. But I can take it."
The Prime Minister said he would not allow himself to be affected by such talks.
"My conscience is clear and as I do not show it, many people get the impression I am always calm.
"I don't make decisions to take over people's property, I don't make decisions to cause hardship to people. I make decisions on what I feel is good," said Abdullah.
While saying that he listened to views from various parties, Abdullah admitted he had also listened to Khairy's views, such as the thoughts and views of Umno Youth on certain issues. Khairy is Umno Youth deputy head.
"That's normal, everybody talks to me. Everybody wants to volunteer in advising the prime minister, what the prime minister has to do," said Abdullah who listed the rakyat (people), politicians and the Opposition as among those who tried to influence him.
"No prime minister is free from attempts by various parties to influence him, including influencing me to accept (approve) their contracts," he added.
Abdullah said whatever happened, he would still decide on matters.
He noted that decisions made by the government would not get 100 per cent approval from the people.
"(It does not matter) as long as the majority knows that the work is done properly with good intentions for the people and the country," he said.
The Prime Minister said Cabinet ministers also made decisions based on their respective portfolios and they should not shirk their responsibilities.
Those who "washed their hands" and left all the decisions to the prime minister should not hold the ministerial position, he added.
"Similarly, if I leave all the decisions to other people, then I should not be the prime minister. Might as well do other work. If you are the prime minister and you don't do anything, people will only have a field day just talking about you everyday. Why create problems?" he said.
Abdullah, however, stressed that he was running the country to the best of his ability.
"There are many things that I want to do. So I use my judgement and decide on what's best (for the people)."
He said it was also coincidental that other people also shared his thoughts on issues. "Not one, but four, five, 10, 20 others.
"When the people are comfortable with what I am doing, that means the rakyat (people) know what I am doing is in their interest," he said.