KUALA LUMPUR: Although he received backlash due to his decision to appoint a Chinese as the country’s Finance Minister in a Malay-majority country, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says he knows he made the right decision.
He said, this was because DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had proved himself to be worthy of the Cabinet post due to his good performance in managing the Penang state government at a time when DAP was still an opposition party.
Dr Mahathir stressed on the fact that one should not be judged based on race but it should be based on quality and knowledge.
“We know, for example that when DAP took over Penang, they managed the finances there much better than the previous (Barisan Nasional) government. They could not depend on the federal government as they were an opposition party (then).
“Yet look at them, they managed the finances better. So we need to have quality people, not just party people or Malay or Chinese or Indian.
“I want to put someone who understands finance and has shown a record. That is why I brought Guan Eng in,” he said as quoted by The Edge Weekly in an exclusive interview.
On May 12, Dr Mahathir announced the three top Cabinet picks which included Lim who is a former banker and chartered accountant.
It was only the third time in the Malaysia’s six decades since independence that the Finance Minister post had gone to a person from the Chinese community.
Fatefully, Lim was actually sent to jail twice during Dr Mahathir’s first stint as prime minister from 1981 to 2003.
Previously, ousted prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak took on the Finance Minister post before he had to let go of the two positions after suffering an embarrassing defeat to Pakatan Harapan in the recent polls.
On not choosing a Malay for one of the key positions in the Cabinet, Dr Mahathir said took a jibe against Najib.
“Well, we had Malays. Of course Malays will want Malays (as Finance Minister) but we had appointed a Malay as a minister of finance and he had lost huge sums of money…and he was also the prime minister,” he quipped.
Recently after starting his job as finance minister, Lim announced that the country is saddled with over 1 trillion ringgit ($251.70 billion) in debt due to mismanagement by the previous government.