Jan 9, 2007

Tun Mahathir says Khairy Jamaluddin has a very big rice bowl running into millions

Dr Mahathir was also asked to comment on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's remark in an interview with the Bangkok Post that criticism against Khairy Jamaluddin had smashed his son-in-law's pot of rice.

"It is a very big rice bowl, running into hundreds of millions of dollars (ringgit). How much rice can you eat," the former Prime Minister said.

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 8 (Bernama) -- Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said that highway concessionaires should reveal how much they have collected in toll todate so as to address people's dissatisfaction over the recent toll hike.

The former Prime Minister said that the volume of traffic might have increased five-fold since toll agreements were inked.

"By right, the income of highway concessionaires should have gone up. So I think it is best that information on the collection is revealed," he said at a news conference to announce the convening of an international conference next month to make war a crime.

Dr Mahathir, who helmed the country for 22 years before stepping down in 2003, suggested a renegotiation of agreements with highway concessionaires, saying that such companies could be reasonable provided they did not lose money.

"Toll could be increased but the rates shouldn't be too high", he said when asked about a protest mounted by members of opposition parties and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Sunday against the recent toll hike by five highway concessionaires.

On the downward trend of crude oil prices, Dr Mahathir said that if prices stayed low, then the government might consider reducing the prices of petroleum products in the country.

"I think we should always look at the price and see what we can do to provide relief for the people," he said as he kept on reminding the Press that he was no longer the Prime Minister.

The news conference saw Dr Mahathir, armed with his trademark no-nonsense style, tackling all sorts of questions ranging from his criticism of the government to the situation in southern Thailand.

Vowing to stick to his ways, he said: "I will criticise anything that is wrong whether it is done by our government or other governments. That has been my principle even when I was Prime Minister.

"I will never hesitate. If the most powerful country in the world do something wrong, I will say it.

"And they are welcome to say when I am wrong. Of course they say I've been wrong all this while, 22 years of bad government," he added.

Dr Mahathir who suffered a minor heart problem late last year, refuted a suggestion that he had been quiet for quite some time. "Now my heart has been repaired but I have no forum to say anything. The Press will not publish what I say. So I appear to be very quiet but actually in my brain (there is) a lot of sounds," he quipped.

On the conflict in southern Thailand involving Muslim separatists and Thai government troops, Dr Mahathir said that he would like to do more in bringing the two sides together.

Nevertheless, he said that the Muslim fighters should drop their demand for an independent state or autonomy from Bangkok to bring back peace in the conflict-ridden region.

"They have some grievances. But I told them quite clearly that they should not make any effort to become an independent state or even seek autonomy because the Thai government doesn't like it.

"But they can have some of their grievances attended to by the Thai government," said Dr Mahathir who has taken up the role of mediator in an effort to patch up differences between the feuding parties.

Dr Mahathir was also asked to comment on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's remark in an interview with the Bangkok Post that criticism against Khairy Jamaluddin had smashed his son-in-law's pot of rice.

"It is a very big rice bowl, running into hundreds of millions of dollars (ringgit). How much rice can you eat," the former Prime Minister said.


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