January 30 2003

Dr M to take break before stepping down

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has revealed more details about his retirement plans, saying he will take a two-month break before stepping down around October.
But Dr Mahathir, 76, who has dominated politics in Malaysia since he came to power in 1981, also signalled the leave isn't the start of him winding down his role before retiring.
In an interview aired on the cable television network CNBC late on Tuesday, Dr Mahathir said he wanted to see through the implementation of a controversial change in education policy, and urged all party officials who came to their posts during his rule to offer to resign to clean the slate for his successor.
Dr Mahathir, who stunned Malaysia last June by announcing he was stepping down immediately, said he was persuaded to stay on after setting two conditions.
The conditions relate to two international conferences in Kuala Lumpur: the February 20-25 Non-Aligned Movement meeting and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference meeting in October.
"I agreed to stay on two conditions: that I be allowed to retire after the OIC meeting," he told CNBC. "The second condition is that I be given a two-month holiday after the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement."
Dr Mahathir said his deputy and anointed successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, would lead the government during his break.
Dr Mahathir has said he won't contest the next election, expected shortly after he steps aside.
He said he feared that some ambition-driven bickering could break out within his United Malays National Organisation surrounding the handover to Mr Badawi.
Dr Mahathir asked for his political appointees to resign ahead of the leadership transition.
"All the people who are with me should at least offer to resign, or should actually resign," Dr Mahathir said. "They may be reappointed by the new leadership, but it is good to have the new leader appoint his own team."
The prime minister also said he would continue to pursue a new policy requiring schools to teach math and science in English, rather than Malay or Chinese languages.
The policy has met opposition among ethnic Malays and Chinese, who fear erosion of their culture. Dr Mahathir says the policy will help Malaysians deal with globalisation.