PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad and certain ministers in the previous government opposed moves to keep promises made in Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto despite efforts by other ministers pushing to fulfil the pledges, said DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.
Lim, who was finance minister in Mahathir’s cabinet, said: “When we talk about policies that we were trying to implement, we did face resistance. Not only from the prime minister but also other ministers.
“Some of us were trying our best to get Cabinet consensus on this but it was difficult. So it took some time.”
Speaking to FMT in an interview, Lim cited the PH promise to abolish tolls as an unfulfilled pledge. He said Mahathir was opposed to any reduction in toll rates, saying this election promise was unfeasible and unrealistic.
“But we (DAP) took a very different view and told him this is part of our manifesto and we should implement it. So it took some time,” he said.
Lim was asked to comment on public perception that Mahathir had not been treating DAP leaders fairly when he was prime minister.
Lim said PH finally managed to implement the first phase of the reduction by 18% from Feb 1 last year on the North-South Highway, adding that this was supposed to be followed by a progressive reduction over five years before finally abolishing it.
“But our government fell shortly after.”
Lim said this was one of the realities of running the government then as they were beholden to the “mindset” of the previous government.
He said many of the sentiments and opinions against the coalition then was a result of a successful propaganda campaign against PH and the DAP.
He admitted that one of the fundamental weaknesses of the PH coaliltion was the failure to establish an effective machinery to communicate their message to the people.
“We were unable to disseminate information to explain to the people about government policies. There was also the ‘deep state’ as then foreign minister (Saifuddin Abdullah) had always emphasised. Of course now he takes a different view.
“But at that time, he was the main proponent of ‘deep state’. Of course there were the issues like the ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) and other policies that were vehemently opposed by the Malay right wing as well as parties like PAS. But now they are in full support of Saifuddin.”
Lim said that the PH cabinet did make some progress, while being slow in other matters, but on the whole, they were making progress.
“But it’s just that we did not have time to effect a whole-of-government transformation that we were trying to do in the short 22 months in power.”
But despite that, he said they managed to implement some significant programmes like Malaysia At Work which created employment for the youth, adding that PH also managed to repeal the fake news act and to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18.
On the Sheraton Move the DAP leader said he and others were surprised when they learnt of the dinner at the hotel prior to the fall of the coalition.
But he said Dr Mahathir’s absence at the dinner lulled them into thinking that the move to oust PH had failed.
“However, what came as a complete surprise was the resignation of the prime minister a day after that. There were a lot of rumours swirling around for quite some time. Definitely, it came as a complete surprise when Dr Mahathir resigned,” he said.
On claims that the GST had not necessarily reduced the cost of living and instead caused government revenue to take a hard hit, Lim said Mahathir had decided to abolish the tax before he (Lim) was appointed finance minister.
“He did it as it was part of the manifesto. We promised so he effected the abolition immediately upon taking power,” he said, adding that election promises ought to be kept.
Asked if he supported the reintroduction of the tax, he said a big issue would be the problem of refunds and how quickly they could be paid back.
“Whilst there may be some rationale especially towards broadening the tax base, you cannot deny that GST will cause inflation and additional hardship to the lower section of the community.”
He said the people would have to finally decide. “Will (the tax revenue) be spent on projects beneficial to the country? Or there will be leakages in the form of corruption or malpractices?”
Lim said looking at the financial rationale of many economists, GST was definitely a more efficient tax system but at the same time it cannot be denied that additional burden will be imposed on the people.
“The fact is that in 2018, the people did not support the GST. This is the area of politics and economy you will have to deal with.”