Putting Malaysia’s Future in the hands of Mahathir Mohamad

April 28, 2017

Putting Malaysia’s Future in the hands of Mahathir Mohamad

by P. Gunasegaram@www.malaysiakini.com

If only the Opposition thought like Mahathir and stayed focused on their goal – which is not to just remove Najib but to change the government for the better – they will stay well away from a man like Mahathir – his record is there for all to see. Instead they have been seduced by the mantra, let’s get rid of Najib first.

If Opposition, in its strange state of amnesia, continues to forget to remember, they are going to lose their chance to heal this nation, their agenda hijacked by the one who was ultimately responsible for all this.–P. Gunasegaram

Dr Mahathir Mohamad was the one who tore UMNO apart, six years after he became Prime minister in July, 1981 when a bruising battle saw him win the UMNO presidential elections against challenger Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah by the narrowest margin ever. But he did much worse than that.

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad

The Opposition trusts Mahathir, do we Malaysians? Hopefully we are not a bunch of suckers–Din Merican

When Razaleigh challenged the election results and the courts declared it illegal, he did not respect the law and hold a new election. Instead, he set up a new UMNO, UMNO Baru, using the power of incumbency to force officialdom to facilitate the transfer of assets to UMNO Baru from the old, original UMNO.

He excluded from UMNO Baru those who considered his opponents compelling Razaleigh to form the alternative Semangat 46. He went about solidifying his position in UMNO Baru by altering the party constitution making it well nigh impossible for anyone to challenge the party president again, removing a check-and-balance so vital for democracy.

In 1987, via Operasi Lalang, he imprisoned over 100 people under the Internal Security Act or ISA and shut down several newspapers ostensibly to defuse interracial tension and bring back order, sending waves of shock and fear throughout the country and consolidating his then tenuous hold on power.

He is the man who is a master at exploiting racial divisions for his own gain, using it pre and post the May 13, 1969 riots – riots whom by some accounts he “predicted” will happen – to gain rapid ascension after Malaysia’s First Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman was effectively deposed by his deputy, Abdul Razak Hussein, current Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak’s father. Razak worked closely with young Turks within UMNO who included Mahathir and Musa Hitam among them.

Mahathir took revenge on the Judiciary in 1988, emasculating them by suspending Tun Salleh Abas,the Lord President and several Supreme Court judges and putting puppets in their place, a body blow from which the judiciary is yet to recover. Then on, Mahathir played enforcer, prosecutor, and judge. He could pretty much do what he wanted without controls, setting the stage for Malaysia’s descend into an abyss from which it is struggling to crawl out of now

There’s a fuller list of questionable things he did in an article I wrote for The Edge in June 2006 which was used in The Sun, three years after he stepped down, which posed a series of 22 groups of questions on his leadership, one for each of the 22 years he held the reins of power in the country.

Image result for Anwar Ibrahim and Mahathir Mohamad

Then and Now (below)

Image result for Anwar and Mahathir recent picture

During the Asian financial crisis in 1998, he again resorted to strong-arm tactics to stay in power when his deputy then Anwar Ibrahim, now jailed opposition leader, mounted a thinly-disguised challenge to his leadership as the ringgit declined precipitously and the region was in turmoil following sharp falls in regional currencies.

Mahathir reacted swiftly and sharply, expelling him from all government and party posts and then sending in an elite squad to capture him at machinegun-point and detain him under the infamous ISA. He simultaneously imposed capital controls to stem the damage on the currency. And then came the sodomy charges against Anwar.

Paradoxically, it was Anwar who ensured Mahathir’s narrow victory in the 1987 party election when he prevailed upon Najib to cast the votes controlled by his block to Mahathir. If Najib had not and favoured Razaleigh instead, Razaleigh would most likely have won.

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad and Lee Kuan Yew

Mahathir Mohamad with Singapore’s Philosopher-King Lee Kuan Yew

Mahathir did not even use the benefit of his dictatorial powers for the sake of the nation the way Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore as I pointed in an article comparing the two. Lee used his immense powers to cut corruption, improve the quality of education and evolve a strong, competent and incorruptible civil service amongst others. Mahathir effectively promoted corruption and patronage, oversaw a decline in educational standards and undermined one of the finest civil services in Asia with his arbitrary decision-making.

What is it about Mahathir that makes the Opposition so enamoured of him? People like Anwar and Lim Kit Siang who directly suffered so much from his blatant misuse of authority to perpetuate his own power and continuance?

Forget to remember

Perhaps the Opposition feels, like a lot of people, that Mahathir has some power of invincibility and that he can influence the people. But an examination of history does not show this as I explained in an article in 2006.

Mahathir was elected MP for the Kota Setar Selatan seat in Kedah in 1964. It was established early on that he was not invincible when he lost the seat to PAS’ Yusof Rawa in 1969. According to some accounts, he had said in 1969 that he did not need Chinese votes to win.

Following the May 13, 1969 riots, Mahathir wrote a widely-circulated letter criticising then Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman. He was dismissed from his UMNO supreme council position and expelled from the party. The following year, he wrote the controversial book ‘The Malay Dilemma’ which was promptly banned, the ban being lifted in 1981 when Mahathir became Prime Minister.

Mahathir was readmitted into UMNO 1972 after Razak assumed the mantle. The Tunku had stepped down in 1970 after the 1969 riots. Mahathir stood for the Kubang Pasu parliamentary seat in 1974 and won unopposed, retaining the seat until 2004 when he did not contest after his retirement. He was appointed education minister in 1975. The vital turning point for Mahathir came the following year when Hussein Onn became Prime Minister following Razak’s untimely death. Hussein picked Mahathir as his deputy.

And this was not because Mahathir enjoyed overwhelming support in UMNO. Mahathir was picked over two UMNO Vice-Presidents who had higher votes than him, Ghafar Baba and Razaleigh. An accident of fate put Mahathir in line for the top position. When Hussein retired due to failing health, Mahathir became Prime Minister in 1981.

And in 2006 when he attempted to get elected as a delegate to UMNO, after stepping down as Prime Minister, so as to voice his opinions at the UMNO General Assembly, he got a thumping defeat, meriting an article in The New York Times. He was placed ninth in a field of 15 for delegates from Kubang Pasu, his former seat! Mahathir pleaded money politics – something he never bothered to check during his time.

Despite his intense, tireless campaigning at the age of over 90 in both Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar in June last year, BN won handsomely in both seats, indicating that Mahathir has insignificant sway with the Malay voters anyway.

The Opposition is not likely to benefit much from Mahathir and his party Bersatu, especially with PAS now seeming to align itself with the government. It seems unlikely that the disunited Opposition will win.

But what if the Opposition won? What if Bersatu held the balance of power? Would it stick with Pakatan Harapan or would it go over to UMNO and make a deal by telling to get rid of Najib and bring back Muhyiddin Yassin to take over as Prime Minister?

Surely Anwar as PM would be unthinkable for Mahathir even if a process of pardon could be initiated. Mahathir can tell Harapan, no deal unless Muhyiddin becomes PM. And so we go from Najib to Muhyiddin – is that a big improvement in the overall scheme of things.

Image result for Mahathir Mohamad, Badawi and Najib

Mahathir Mohamad and his Accomplices in the Political Destruction of Malaysia

That’s what Mahathir wants to be – a power broker, the king-maker. That way no matter who is in power, he is not going to be brought into account for his past misdeeds. That way he has a pretty good chance of putting his son, Mukhriz, in a strong position to assume future leadership. That way he is assured that history – written by the victors as the wise tell us – will be far more kindly to him.

If any one takes the trouble to remember what this man did and stood for, he would be mad to think that Mahathir is the solution – he was, and is, the problem. Without him and his 22 years of misrule, Malaysia would not have descended to what it is today.

Mahathir was accountable to no one. Not the people, not the party, not the judges. He could do almost anything he pleased and get away with it using the apparatus and machinery of control he had put in place.

He made opaque many decisions of government, putting anything marked secret by the government as secret under the law by removing the power of judges to judge even if the secret posed no danger to the country but only embarrassed the government and exposed its corrupt ways

That was the legacy he left behind – and a leader who followed him used it to do nasty things, some worse than that by Mahathir. Now we expect Mahathir – the source of all this – to save us Malaysians from Najib!

Is that why Mahathir is sticking his neck out? For the good of the country? But remember he had his chance – 22 years of it. He bungled – all he did was to stay in power and do the greatest damage to the country ever by any one, Prime Minister or not

His goal now is not to get into power but to ensure that whoever comes into power does not destroy him. As far as Mahathir is concerned, it is always about him – not Malaysia, not Malaysians, not even the Malays.

If only the Opposition thought like Mahathir and stayed focused on their goal – which is not to just remove Najib but to change the government for the better – they will stay well away from a man like Mahathir – his record is there for all to see. Instead they have been seduced by the mantra, let’s get rid of Najib first.

If Opposition, in its strange state of amnesia, continues to forget to remember, they are going to lose their chance to heal this nation, their agenda hijacked by the one who was ultimately responsible for all this.


15 thoughts on “Putting Malaysia’s Future in the hands of Mahathir Mohamad

  1. I have seen Malaya from 1950s until Malaysia today, very little of the British tradition left, totally replaced by faux Malay Royal pomp and circumstance, phony Daulat, and a judicial system that could be run better and more objectively, by monkeys. Malay politicians treat one another with venality, corpulence, corruption, obnoxiousness, petty bickering, and the favorite Malay Sandiwara of the week.

    Malaysia is ailing, moving towards becoming a failed state, because of Mahathir. He is responsible for electoral manipulation, power concentration and suppression of right to dissent – the three major systemic malaise which is the root cause of prime ministerial corruption. Simply removing Najib would not save the country as he is a symptom and not the root cause. Najib is not the only Malaysian prime minister who has been accused of corruption. Najib has 1MDB and Mahathir had Port Klang Free Zone land deal. If the system remains the same, the next prime minister will soon have his own 1MDB or PKFZ. Without institutional reforms, I believe that the installation of a Mahathir’s proxy at the helm may pose a greater danger than Najib. An old dog cannot learn to perform any new trick. An old dictator will remain a dictator.

    The 10-point agenda of Bersih 2.0 make good sense to me: (1) Electoral reform; (2) Making the Election Commission a constitutional party answerable to Parliament; (3) Barring the prime minister from simultaneously holding the office of finance minister (4) Parliamentary reform; (5) Making Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) answerable to Parliament; (6) Separating the attorney-general from the role of public prosecutor; (7) Freedom of information laws at federal and state levels; (8) Public declaration of ministers and senior government servants’ assets; (9) Repeal of/amendments to draconian laws and (10) Establishment of the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC).

    • LaMoy,

      I share your take on Tun Dr. Mahathir, the politician and Prime Minister. Power got to his head. He once told me that he needed power to get things done, but he got them overdone. He was my home town (Alor Setar) hero but I am disappointed in him for grooming two idiots, Badawi and Najib, to succeed him.

      During his long tenure as Prime Minister, he emasculated the system of governance, subjugated the universities when he was Minister of Education, destroyed the Judiciary,treated civil servants with the willing helping hand of Tun Ahmad Sarji like indentured servants, and founded the Malaysian strain of crony capitalism.

      I must confess that I am mea culpa when I supported his Look East Policy. I did not see that it was a mix of cronyism LDP Japan style and Korea’s chaebol business culture. LKY’s strategic pragmatism was a far superior system because the brilliant LKY was a tough authoritarian with integrity who championed meritocracy and good governance and endeared himself to Singaporeans who grieved his passing.

      I am sad that Mahathir let my generation down. He blew his chance to leave a legacy and that is a tragedy. It is too late in the day for him to undo the damage he had done to our body politic.

      Our political opposition cannot get their act together after Anwar Ibrahim was sent to jail on a contrived charge of sodomy. My view is that Barisan Nasional will win GE-14 with a much reduced majority and UMNO will remove Najib like they did to Badawi after 2008 General Elections.–Din Merican

    • Din:

      Thank you for telling us some inside stories about Mahathir. A few years ago when I was looking into buying some properties in West Vancouver, Canada, a friend pointed at a $2.5 million mansion and told me that was one of Mukhriz’s innumerable global real estate holdings and foreign bank accounts, which he holds in trust for Papa Mahathir. That mansion may be close to $8 million by now, or more.

      I agree with your assessment that BN will win the GE-14. They will win even with minority vote due to the unfair demographic manipulation. After the election, if UMNO got rid of Najib as you said, I expect Bersatu to merge with UMNO. They are the same Ketuanan Melayu parties. Bersatu is only trying to increase their political chips as much as possible to get a bigger voice within UMNO. Those opposition people who think “riding the tiger” working with Mahathir are rather politically naive. Very naive.

  2. All the points are well and fine, the problem is not working with Mahathir means certain defeat to UMNO-PAS partnership.

    It is Lee Kuan Yew, when asked how he could work with the Communists in his early years when he was staunchly against them, said the now famous words: ” In politics, one has to be practical”.

    Working with Mahathir is “riding the Tiger”. But so was working with PAS and truth is it was correct despite the current threat of UMNO- PAS.

  3. We all make mistakes and so did Mahathir, perhaps much more times in his shoes as PM. Some of the moves he made were to enhance and secure his power both in the party and government. Emboldened, he went on to undercut the power of the judiciary and other vital state institutions like the police, AG Office, MACC and the
    fourth estate – the press. He, most likely, did not foresee the consequences his draconian actions would bring years on. Even if he did, he probably couldn’t care. His calculus then was strategic and meant to serve immediate needs.

    Despite all the brickbats thrown at him, he did bring immense development to the country, on a much larger scale than any other PM before or after him. He transformed a natural resources exporting economy to one of a manufacturing economy with infrastructure build-up attracting further foreign investments in all sectors creating thousands of new jobs for the people.

    He is a deep thinker. Allah has blessed him with a mighty mind and a mighty pen. At 92 he still thinks about social and political issues and writes about them. I have read his “Malay Dilemma” twice. He holds no punches in writing boldly about the lethargy and backwardness of his own race and the prescriptions to recover and advance.

    At his age, he deserves respect and admiration and not derision and vilification.

    As a footnote I would caution readers to be aware of come again pop-up writers. One day they can write about a person or event in waxing praise and yet condemn the same on another day at another time. There are speech-writers who write for a living and for a bagful of silver.

    • Agreed with your sentiments.Despite his age he is making strenous efforts to make a change for the country.Compare that with armchair critics like the writer and Lamoy who forgot that his adopted country was once ruled by a moron and now a buffoon.

  4. ‘ Without him and his 22 years of misrule, Malaysia would not have descended to what it is today’.

    The problem was when he was elected president and the election results were challenged by their members………..the rest are downhill for the country with no sight of reaching the bottom.

    He is just an average ordinary politician. After a few years in office, the BN leaders, in particular the Malay/Muslim, knew what he did was not right but carry on with him in the ‘ hope ‘ things will improve. However, he abused his power at all cost for another 18 years to create a toxic and destructive political environment and other political ‘ leaders ‘ and vested interest groups exploited the situation to their full advantage.

    No one could stop the damage and destruction from decades of misrule. Until the rot has reach the bottom and the only way is up, the ordinary people will continue to suffer.

  5. What a name to assume for oneself “sotong”.

    No – Mahathir is not an ordinary politician. He is extraordinary.
    He is ultra nationalist and pragmatically pro-Malay. When he sensed Tunku was giving too much to the Chinese and too little to the Malays, he set forth his political mission with the objective of resetting the disproportionate imbalance of wealth to a more equitable one to be shared by the Malays, Chinese and the rest. He needed power to attain this and with his artful ground working became PM. It looked like others (like Hussein Onn and Abdul Razak) needed him more than he needed them. He was a firebrand rebel obsessed with a Malay empowerment mission which no force could stop him – a modern Hang Tuah?

  6. @ Hawking Eye,

    Despite developments, and at an obscene cost and expense to the people, Mahathir had cheated the people and stolen the trust of nation with promises broken and undelivered—They are:
    1. A Amanah, Bersih and Cekap (ABC) Government.
    2. A Bangsa Malaysia Race.

    Instead, he is largely Responsible for leaving behind:

    1. a government Without Quality Successor, after appointed and removed 4 DPMs ,
    1 PM and another, he now tries to remove.
    2. a Culture of MACCP + Betrayal and Because of this,
    3. Countless Scandalous Losses in the Trillion by today’ s Value , starting from
    1981/83 BMF Loan Loss ,..Perwaja, ..PKFTZ,. .BNM US$ 10 b Forex Loss…,
    …… 1 MDB,….

    all in the name of the Malay race and Religion in Sustaining power, while enriching himself, his family members, the selected Malay elites,cronies and those others closely connected.

    22 years of mistakes and more excuses are not what the people had asked for, going forward.

  7. Many naive, ignorant and delusional Malay/Muslim and some non Malay/Muslim think he is a stateman or negarawan.

    We agree he is a politician……I said he is ‘ ordinary ‘ and you said ‘ extraordinary ‘.

    As most politicians are basically liar…….I am sure many have no problem agreeing he is a ‘ extraordinary ‘ liar.

  8. Thanks kllaukl for sketching the other side of Mahathir’s coin.

    The Amanah, Bersih and Cekap (ABC) Government and a Bangsa Malaysia Race outliner promises were at least ticking in to some extent during Mahathir’s time. Sadly it has gone on full reverse gear under Najib who has taken up the Islamic agenda as a politically-driven tool to save his and his UMNO rule.

    When global finance wobbles and trips, local state-owned firms often get hit and it is not unusual for governments to come to their rescue. It happens all over the world and Mahathir is no exception.

    One mercurial leader that came on to the scene was Anwar Ibrahim. Mahathir saw him as a real threat to his leadership and got rid of him by foul means.

    Both Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew possessed dictatorial traits. Mahathir’s sucession leadership line ran on auto pilot mode spawning ineffective or corrupt leaders. LKY’s was different. He planned with great care and groomed second line and third line leaderships to take over from him and this has become the functioning norm in Singapore.

    Mahathir thought more of himself whereas LKY thought of his beloved Singapore he spent all his life to build it.

  9. @ Hawking Eye,

    Not condoning Najib,
    like Mahathir, you seem to blame everything on Najib, who had inherited the sin MACCP culutre of his(Mahathir) legacy. It was Anwar then. Najib’s involvement in 1MDB, and in using Islamic agenda as a tool, (which I think will backfire on him) to stay in power, is a dangerous move and a major set back for himself and the country.

    The “exception” is , Malaysia would have withstood the onslaught of the 1997/8 Asian Financial Crisis, Without much problem if BNM under Mahathir leadership had not lost USD 10 b in the Forex speculation in 1990/93,a big chunk of the Forex currency reserve which in the same period, stood at around USD 42 b. After which plummeted​ to USD 13 b in1997, where ER plunged chaotically to near RM5 = 1USD. It was eventually pegged at RM 3.80 .The recession was deep and painful. It lasted for almost decade. The effects is still lingering till today.

    Yet, it Need Not and Should Not have happened- but it did. It had become part of Mahathir’s legacy, beside Leaving behind ( I forgot), a Broken Judiciary, a Divided Country and Toxic Culture of MACCP, and where Race and Religion are still prominently Misuse and Abuse to make political gain in self- serving agendas.

    What Future in Mahathir hands again ?
    Where are the Quality Leaders ?

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