Dec 12, 2006

Tun Mahathir = "The Old Man" now?

BANGKOK, Dec 12 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said accusation of nepotism against him was one way of bringing him down and eroding his credibility.

The Prime Minister said he realised that allegations and accusations of nepotism against him was because of his leadership style that allowed others to comment and criticise, as well as more space for democratic debate and discussion in the media.

In an interview with Bangkok Post editor-in-chief Pichai Chuensuksawadi at his residence in Putrajaya, Abdullah was also asked how he felt about allegations against his son Kamaluddin and son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin.

"I think the accusation of nepotism against a leader is one way of bringing him down, of eroding his credibility. They will do anything," he said.

Abdullah said Kamaluddin worked overseas and got some contracts with Petronas through open international tender and also bought some companies which he wanted because of their engineering and machine-tooling capabilities.

"He does not build the company, he goes for mergers and acquisitions. That's his style of business. Although many people have come and asked him to go into joint ventures with government-linked companies, he says 'No, I have enough money, I am rich'," said Abdullah.

Asked if his leadership style of allowing more debate opened him to a lot of criticisms, Abdullah said he did get very sad.

"I did mention that the old man practically smashed Khairy's pot of rice. That's something I am very sad about . He has sold his interest in ECM Libra (an investment bank group). Sold it at a loss. Now he has some debts to settle," said Abdullah.


He said when Khairy was offered to join ECM Libra, all sorts of news were made about him so as to disqualify him.

Abdullah said freedom to speak should not be used to tell lies and slander other people, adding that he was open to criticism.

"You want to speak the truth, by all means, I have no problem. You want to tell me something's wrong somewhere, tell me. Tell the leadership the truth. I am happy for people to help me see things that are not doing well," he added.

In the interview, Abdullah also reiterated that he had not stopped the drive against corruption which was part of his reform agenda when he took over the country.

"I have not forgotten about this," he said.

In fact, Abdullah said there would be 300 new officers for a special investigative unit that would not wait for police to provide a report before they could act.

"If they themselves receive reports or if they believe something is not right somewhere, they will go in," he added.

Asked on the number of ongoing investigations, Abdullah said there were more than 100 now, adding that he had told them to be very careful to ensure fairness to everyone and that they should have enough evidence.

"To an executive, to an owner of a company, they know that if these officials walk into their room, their rating goes down. Immediately people will suspect that something is wrong," he said.

But Abdullah said it was not easy to get evidence as suspects were very clever and they had money all over the place, such as Swiss banks where it would be very difficult to get information.

As a long-term measure, Abdullah said he was working in the preventive area by inculcating good values and integrity through the setting up of the Institute of Integrity Malaysia.

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