The prime minister also says a total of 17,000 political appointees from the previous BN government will be laid off

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has given his assurance that the Anti-Fake News Act (AFN) and several other laws that infringe press freedom would be done away with after a study is done.

“We have to understand the AFN to end it. We also have to study other laws that infringe press freedom and freedom of expression. There are national security related laws on restricting freedom of the people too,” said Mahathir.

”For this we will need the government in place,” he added during a press conference this afternoon.

Several days ago the newly minted premier had said that the Act would be more defined even though Pakatan Harapan had called for the repeal of the said law.

Following the confusion which arose, Mahathir confirmed today that the Anti Fake News Act, the last piece of legislation passed by the BN government, will be abolished.

As for the termination of the goods and services tax (GST), he told the press that the relevant government agencies have been instructed to payback the excess taxes that were collected.

“The government will payback those who make claims. The government had collected more than necessary,” he said.

GST was introduced under the administration of former prime minister Najib Razak. It remained a hugely unpopular tax scheme with Pakatan pledging to abolish it if it wins GE14.

Mahathir also stressed that while arrests would be made on individuals implicated in corruption, especially the ones related to 1MDB, torture methods would not be deployed by the police.

“I have been briefed by the Auditor General and the police. There are more wrongdoings than known by the public and me. We will lodge police reports and and arrest wrongdoers.

“Elements such as torture will not be used. Questioning reasonably cannot take place at 4 or 5am.  Detainees cannot be kept in dark rooms. If there are deaths we will have inquests.

“Najib had made national security laws that allowed for arrests and deaths left not investigated. If there is anyone who died in detention, we will have inquest,” Mahathir said in reference to the National Security Council Act.

Contract workers terminated

The prime minister also announced that expenditure reduction would be undertaken by his government by doing away with up to 17,000 contract workers in the government.

“We want to reduce expenditure. There are too much wastage. There are too many contract workers.  Some contracts are given due to political appointees. That will be ended.

“There are 17,000 political appointees. We will make savings there.

“Drivers too are contract workers. They are not needed but are lowly paid. We will give them other positions.”

Mahathir also confirmed that the government will be requesting for the return of laundered funds of 1MDB in various nations abroad.

“We want to get back money from the US, Switzerland, Singapore and even Luxembourg. Before Najib did not admit that the money was laundered. The money belongs to Malaysia.

“We will ask for the money back. It is a big amount. It is a big amount which will help us settle debts.”

He also gave his word that the government guaranteed loans undertaken for 1MDB would be settled.

“If it implicates the government, we will have to pay otherwise we will be bankrupt.”