Mahathir Mohamad

Malaysia PM Mahathir Mohamad laments world’s ‘pain’ in first speech to UN in 15 years

Malaysia PM cites trade fight between China and the United States, saying that ‘the rest of the world is feeling the pain’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 10:42am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 10:52pm

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has criticised growing political, economic and social turmoil around the world, saying the situation has only worsened since the start of the century.

The 93-year-old Mahathir told the UN General Assembly on Friday that when he last spoke to the forum in 2003, soon before retiring, “I lamented how the world had lost its way”.

Mahathir returned to politics this year and said that “if at all, the world is far worse than 15 years ago”.

He cited the trade fight between China and the United States, saying that “the rest of the world is feeling the pain”.

In the political arena, he pointed to global problems related to the huge influx of migrants around the world, wars that have been spurred on by terrorism, the worsening plight of the Palestinians and alarming situation in Myanmar where he said Muslim refugees have been forced to flee.

Mahathir asked fellow leaders: “Nations are independent, but does this mean that they have a right to massacre their own people?”

Despite the new reality that he faces as a returning leader, Mahathir praised the democratic achievement of his country that for the first time in 61 years decided to change its government.

Mahathir’s return to the world stage followed a remarkable election campaign this year to unseat Najib Razak, a former Mahathir protégé.

Popular discontent with Malaysia’s political status quo, intensified by spiralling corruption scandals surrounding Razak, compelled his mentor to head up an opposition coalition and bring down the ruling party he had dominated for decades.

On Friday, Malaysia’s nonagenarian leader stressed that the “new Malaysia” wants to be a “friend to all and enemy of none” to remain neutral and non-aligned.

Since his political comeback, Mahathir has adopted a firmer stand in tackling a decades-old territorial row in the South China Sea amid China’s aggressive expansion in the disputed area.

He said that Japan’s pacifist constitution stands out in the world for embodying peace and should be emulated, but not revised.

“Japan is the only country that does not want to be involved in wars, aggressive wars,” he said at a press conference after delivering his speech at the UN.

“If Japan revises its constitution and allows itself to go to war then I think we are making a very regressive step. Instead of promoting peace, Japan will join all the other countries in the world about using war to settle problems.”

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to achieve his long-term goal of revising the Japanese pacifist constitution to legitimise Japan’s Self-Defence Force.

Mahathir said he agreed with the ideal of rejecting wars and was considering following the Japan model for his own country.

“We are thinking about following Japan’s current constitution which does not allow Japan to go to war – we don’t want to go to war either,” he said.

Malaysia has 100,000 troops in its navy, army and air force, whose supreme commander is its king. Revisions to the country’s constitution require a minimum two-thirds approval in both houses of parliament.

Associated Press, Kyodo, The Washington Post