By Ahmad Mustapha Hassan
Vincent Tan, Oh! Sorry! Tan Sri Vincent Tan, the man who played me out in the Sports Toto deal, after having deviously become a corporate figure ,was bent in getting into the good books of the then Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. He would be unhappy if anyone informed Dr. Mahathir of any of his unethical business practices. He wanted to be portrayed as a cultured and intelligent corporate man.
He believed he could easily gain Dr. Mahathir’s confidence as he had seen how others of lesser stature than him could easily become confidants of the man in office. If they could, he definitely could easily do that and be better at it. He did not need to be a genius to do that. All he needed to do was to impress the man with his ability to do what Dr. Mahathir wanted or what he felt Dr. Mahathir fancied.
He first met Dr. Mahathir in Rome in 1984 when I introduced him to the then Prime Minister who was on an investment tour to Rome. He wanted to get Dr. Mahathir’s blessings and approval in the privatisation of Sports Toto. He also met in Rome Mohamad Abdullah Ang, who was the chief executive of Malaysia’s Sogososha, (Multinational Company) Malaysian Overseas Investment Corporation, MOIC for short, and a confidant of Dr. Mahathir. This man was not that known until he became Dr. Mahathir’s close friend.
Dr. Mahathir was a native of Kedah, a state in the north of the peninsula. He naturally appreciated northern types of dishes. What better chance than to start a restaurant specialising in northern cuisine! Thus Restoran Rasa Utara was born.
Dr. Mahathir liked riding horses. Bukit Kiara Equestrian and Country Resort would definitely impress the man. It did not matter that the Club did not make money. It was important that Dr. Mahathir graciously approved of this venture. He knew that now being a corporate figure banks would always come to his aid.
He managed to develop a resort on the hill at Bukit Tinggi with all the various amenities that would appeal to Dr. Mahathir. And Dr. Mahathir would spend time at this resort to write his speeches. After all Vincent had already become Dr. Mahathir’s buddy.
In the case of Tun Razak, he would spend time at Government bungalows either at Cameron Highlands or Fraser’s Hill so that he would not be seen to patronise any businessman with luxurious facilities.
Dr. Mahathir was ‘a simple man’ and he would not mind patronising such places like the resorts at Bukit Tinggi. After all the resorts have many attractions and one of them being the Japanese Restaurant. Dr. Mahathir, I was told, liked Japanese cuisine.
Vincent did a good study of the man in power then. He knew the likes and dislikes of the man. Once confidence had been built, it would be easy to talk and discuss various topics with this man who held the destiny of the country. It would also be nice to impress other notable people if he could show that the man in power was a close chum of his. He could slap the man’s back in public if he wanted to.
Once, when Vincent was still trying to gain the confidence of Dr. Mahathir, he became very angry with me for blemishing his image with Dr. Mahathir. Anyway Dr. Mahathir would not listen and believe anything I told him of any black marks about all these “successful” businessmen. He thought I mentioned all these out of jealousy. That was always his favourite remark.
Vincent, after having gained the confidence of the man holding the destiny of the nation, was now a man in the corridors of power. He was able to strut around and discuss matters of national importance. It would also be possible to influence Mahathir’s decisions on such matters.
When his name was mentioned in the Lingam tape scandal, it was never a surprise to me. The man had made it into the corridors of power.
Thanks, Ahmad, for allowing me to post your piece on my blog. Most of the tycoons around Tun Dr. Mahathir knew how to please him and would be bend backwards to accommodate the needs of this very powerful man. Once the Tun trusted them, they could get away with blue murder (figuratively speaking). Some of them have deserted him and are now hanging around Badawi; but not Tan Sri Vincent Tan, who would play both sides. —Din Merican