At 93, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is the world’s oldest leader. Dubbed the father of modern Malaysia, he is the country’s longest serving prime minister, serving his first term for 22 years from 1981 to 2003.
In May, he made a stunning return to political power, coming out of retirement to save his corruption plagued country. It forced the first change of government since Malaysia’s independence from British rule more than 60 years ago.
This month, CNN’s Anna Coren sits down with the elder statesman to talk about the endemic problems he says he has inherited, the challenges ahead, and how he plans to deal with his powerful neighbor, China.
Highlights of the 30-minute program include:
On his political comeback at age 93:
“Well, when I stepped down voluntarily, I thought that I would have a very relaxed time. Be with my family and maybe cruise around. Unfortunately, the moment I stepped down, my successor decided to change course, adopted new policies and all that. And, particularly discarded everything that I have started. So, a lot of people felt unhappy. They all came to see me, asking me ‘Please, do something, please do something.’”
On his first term in 1981:
“Well, that was something new at that time of course. And, the idea that I should have the authority to do things which I had wanted for the country, it's a stimulus, in that you feel that you are given this opportunity to contribute towards a development, not a country. And, I'm an avid reader, I have been reading story books, political books, so all those ideas about other countries, I thought that we can do the same. So, when I was Prime Minister, I was excited at the opportunity to do something for the country.”
On his wife Siti Hasmah:
“She feels the same way about the kind of things that I believe in. About loyalty, the country, about working for the country and all that. She feels that, so she accompanies me wherever I go, and she on her own, she also has a program of promoting some welfare among the people. She is a sense quite as dedicated to this idea of loyalty, patriotism that I have.”
'Talk Asia' is produced by CNN Vision, the global creative production powerhouse of CNN International, which brings the world's breath-taking diversity into cinematic focus, telling stories that inspire audiences around the world. ‘Talk Asia’ Mahathir Mohamad trailer: https://cnn.it/2LJxz9t