It’s three weeks since they voted out their government for the first time in more than six decades. And Malaysians are getting back to work with a spring in their step.
Their hero is Mahathir Mohammed; the former prime minister who came out of retirement aged 92 and united with his former political opponents to topple the regime accused of massive graft.
The public is reading all about it as fresh details pour out from an investigation into how billions of dollars disappeared from 1MDB， a state fund overseen by ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The scandal and a litany of others under Najib who was denied all wrongdoing has humiliated a country that had thrived economically under Mahathir who is now widely heralded by many relations as a savior.
I now feel very blessed. I feel very blessed because Mahathir Mohamad up to stand up for us. Thank you so much Mahathir.
I cannot see much but I’m so proud of this.
In an exclusive interview Mahathir told VOA the task of restoring Malaysia’s finances and reputation, following the damage inflicted by the previous government was immense.
My first 30 years as Prime Minister was fairly easy .I inherited a system that is already there. All I have to do is to introduce new ideas so that we can expedite the growth and development of Malaysia. But here I am dealing with a country that has been actually destroyed.
Mahathir says the new government has already found ways to knock off about 1/5 of Malaysia’s national debt which ballooned to more than 250 billion under Najib.
On Monday he announced he would drop a multi-billion dollar high-speed rail project connecting the capital with Singapore saying it was expensive and unnecessary.
To topple Najib, Mahathir joined forces with Anwar Ibrahim, a former deputy who he wants Jhelum following a political spat before Najib did the same.But he flatly rejects any suggestion that his own heavy-handed use of executive power in his previous two decades of rule had any influence on the abuses that followed.
Political analysts Wong Chin Huat says Mahathir it does have to shoulder some of the blame for what followed after he stepped down in 2003. But he also believes his commitment to reform now is rock-solid.
I think a lot of people are still celebrating the fact that we have a good government. But no good government lasts unless you have a good opposition. You need good opposition to check on them, to be prepared to stand in and replace them.
Malaysians are bursting with pride after a watershed moment for their country. But the battle to create a lasting optimism is only just beginning.
David Boyle for VOA news in Kuala Lumpur