COMMENT | Many Malaysians seem puzzled by repeat-Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s recent exercise in what’s known as “megaphone diplomacy”, his very public and provocative statement in an interview with the Financial Times that Malaysians’ ridding themselves of the BN regime for the first time in the nation’s history may inspire Singaporeans to do likewise after nearly 60 unbroken years of government by the People’s Action Party (PAP).
“I think the people of Singapore, like the people in Malaysia, must be tired of having the same government, the same party since independence,” Malaysiakini quoted Mahathir as remarking, much to the mystification of most, if not all of us.
I must confess that I haven’t been a mega-fan of Mahathir in the past. But recalling that I’ve made fun of him as ‘Mahahahathir’ a few times, I have to admit now that the joke’s entirely on me.
And as for my occasionally calling him Madhathir, now that he’s demonstrated enough smarts as to lead the opposition to a stunning victory over the seemingly-unbeatable UMNO-BN robber-regime, I have to concede that if he’s crazy then he’s crazy like a fox.
However, having said all that, there’s no denying that he’s always seemed to have a bee in his bonnet, if not a bat in his belfry, about Singapore.
There are plenty of possible reasons for this, two of the most obvious being a natural species rivalry between himself as the Malaysian Tiger and Lee Kuan Yew (photo) as the Singapore Lion, or envy of the tremendous success of the ‘little red dot’ despite its lack of land, sand, water and other natural resources compared with much bigger and more bountiful but much more corrupt and less prosperous Malaysia.
But this recent piece of apparently highly undiplomatic megaphone diplomacy that Mahathir has directed at the city-state seems more specifically motivated by his decision to scrap the projected high-speed rail link with Singapore.
Presumably on the grounds that this was just another of the wildly-overpriced rent-seeking projects devised by the Najib Abdul Razak-headed former UMNO-BN regime for the enrichment of its members and cronies, rather than for the benefit of the Malaysian people.
Remember Jack Abramoff?
But it inevitably causes some of us to recall the howls of protest by Mahathir way back when his first hand-picked successor as Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, cancelled Mahathir’s proposed “crooked bridge” link between Malaysia and Singapore.
Not that I’m suggesting that there’s necessarily any resemblance between the crooked-bridge and possibly crooked high-speed rail projects, but at least on a superficial level, there appears to be an element of inconsistency in Mahathir’s attitude towards them.
Just as there does in his approach to the US and the rest of “the West”, with which he routinely conducted a campaign of megaphone diplomacy during his first term as Prime Minister.
A duplicitous campaign of megaphone diplomacy, or in other words megaphoney diplomacy as it turned out, as in the same period of time his administration allegedly paid more than a million dollars to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was later convicted of corruption, for arranging a meeting for Mahathir with the US President at the time, George W Bush (photo).
But the fact that he recently submitted to an interview with the Voice of America seems to indicate that he has less appetite for megaphoney diplomacy with the US these days.
And in any event, there’s very little possibility that he or anybody else could trump the current US President in the megaphoney department.
Except, of course, for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is clearly using his yapping lapdog, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, to demonstrate to the world that the megaphoney Trump is all bark and no bite.
But that’s another story, except, of course, for the fact that the planned venue for the so-called “summit” that Trump, the leader of the richest and most militarily powerful nation on earth, has apparently allowed himself to be faked into with Kim, leader of China’s pathetic little no-account client country, happens to be Singapore.
A situation over which Mahathir surely won’t be shedding any Mahatears, as it promises to provide him with a golden opportunity to enjoy practising his diplomacy skills, both megaphone or megaphoney, on Singapore, the US and North Korea all at once.
DEAN JOHNS, after many years in Asia, currently lives with his Malaysian-born wife and daughter in Sydney, where he coaches and mentors writers and authors and practises as a writing therapist.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views ofb Malaysiakini.