Mahathir on Mahathir

March 8, 2011

In posting this article, I must extend my apologies to Frank, Mongkut Bean, Tok Cik, Tean Rean, Danildaud and  all my good friends who feel that I have given Tun Mahathir too much exposure on this blog. Also to my most severe in-house critic, Dr. Kamsiah. I have always attempted to be fair to and yet critical of my hometown hero. This is hard  for  me  to do, although he destroyed the judiciary and other institutions of governance in order to  execute his Vision and plans for Malaysia. He did what he had to do, I would rationalise.

That said, my comments in Tom Plate‘s book, Conversations with Mahathir, stand because they were written after some agonising reflections on my part of the man I knew growing up in Alor Setar,Kedah Darul Aman in the 1950s .I also served him for  a few years when he was Chairman, Kumpulan FIMA Berhad before I joined Sime Darby in 1978. He was different then, for he was a very good boss and an excellent motivator.–Din Merican

Mahathir on Mahathir: A Doctor in the House

by M Krishnamoorthy (March7, 2011) @

Dr Mahathir Mohamad dedicated 20 pages of his memoirs into detailing how he came to know about Anwar Ibrahim‘s alleged sexual liaisons with men and women, leading to the latter’s sacking in 1998.

In the chapter ‘Anwar’s Challenge’, Mahathir states: “Four years after IGP Tun Hanif first told me about allegations linking Anwar to homosexual activities, someone sent me the book ‘50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Ibrahim Tidak Boleh Jadi Perdana Menteri‘ (’50 Reasons Why Anwar Ibrahim Cannot Become Prime Minister’).

“The book was clearly a sensationalist attempt to make money so I did not read it, but the rumours about Anwar refused to go away.”

He then cites, “Then in 1997, I received a letter from a woman named Ummi Hafilda Ali. Its contents disturbed me as there were more specific allegations of sodomy against Anwar.”

Meanwhile, Mahathir says: “The police had continued their observations of the deputy minister’s activities, as was their usual practice. Even if I had asked them to stop, I doubt they would have. This time they had evidence, including pictures and confessions of people involved.

Relating events that led to firing of Anwar, Mahathir narrates how he interviewed four girls who told him about how they were persuaded to see a very influential person by an Indian man they knew by the name of Nalla.

“He had taken each girl separately to a house in Kenny Hills. There they met a person they recognised as the deputy prime minister. They were asked to undress with the purpose of having sex.

“Two of them said they refused but the other two consented. They were willing to talk to the police and to me but were adamant that they should not appear in court to give evidence.”

Mahathir said he then called the UMNO menteris besar, chief ministers and state heads to Sri Perdana for a meeting and asked the police to make the witnesses he had interviewed available.

“I then briefed party leaders about what I had learnt about Anwar and showed them pictures of the witnesses.”

Tell-all book

This was among the many chapters in the 800 page memoirs, which also details his earliest memories of childhood; through Malaya’s struggle through the sunset of British colonialism, World War II, and Independence; and to his life as a doctor.

In a tell-all book, Mahathir states categorically that he is a Malay.  “Some claim that my father was Malayalee and was fluent in both Tamil and Malayalam. Some have even written that he was a Hindu who converted to Islam to marry my mother. Others say they have seen documents clearly stating my ethnicity. I admit that some Indian, or more accurately South Asian blood flows in my veins, but from which part of the Indian subcontinent my ancestors came I do not know,” he says in the beginning of Chapter three of the 62 chapter memoirs, which is 843 pages long.

On Singapore’s leader Lee Kuan Yew (left) he says: “I had clashed with Lee many times when we were MPs in the 1964 and 1965 parliamentary sessions. I did not like his endless preaching of about what Malaysia should do or should be like.

“Bitter over the painful separation, he called Malays ‘the jungle Arabs’, likening them to the desert Arabs of who he seemed to have a low opinion. I doubt he would disparage the Arabs today as Singapore is now far more active than Malaysia in wooing investors from the Middle East, and being the model as well as their advisers for development.”

On the bright side, he says, “Despite our past clashes, I was determined to have friendly relations with Singapore when I became Prime Minister.”

Operations Lalang

In addition to a lot of personal, if controversial anecdotes, Mahathir narrates his constant struggles as a politician to improve the lot of his fellow citizens; his single-minded pursuit of his country’s goals; his greatest fears; and his most cherished hopes.

In a 20-page chapter on Operasi Lalang, he says: ” I told Musa Hitam, my then deputy prime minister and minister of Home Affairs, to tell the IGP very early in my premiership that I did not intend to use the ISA.

“How then could I have allowed Ops Lalang, biggest of such police operation in Malaysian history, to happen just six years later?”

In 1987, with the Chinese language issue, university rallies, UMNO’s accusation of mass conversions of Malays into Christians and a Malay soldier running amok and firing M-16 in Jalan Chow Kit, he says: “The police felt that a repeat of the May 13 riots of 1969 was more than likely. The IGP advised me that pre-emptive arrests under the ISA had to be made quickly if public order was to be maintained.

“Agreeing to follow the IGP’s recommendations meant having to overcome my own conscience.”

On former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin (right), he says: “He was repeatedly accused of lining his pockets and taking kickbacks from contracts. No clear evidence was ever produced, but once again the whispering grew louder and more spiteful. People came to see me to complain about him, and when I demanded evidence, they could not produce.”

Daim, as usual, ignored all the talk about him. “He must have learnt the rumours but he chose not to reply. When the talk got to be too much and I could not bear it any more, I arranged for him to resign.

“In the end what worried me were not only the rumours of cronyism but also tales of his supposed disloyalty. He was supportive during the financial crisis, at least in front of me.”

Mahathir said he was later informed by Abdul Ghani Othman that Daim had called a number of menteris besar, telling them not to support his idea of currency controls.”Since nobody else came with similar complaints I just discounted the story. But when it had all become too much, I didn’t accuse him of anything but sent word through a mutual friend that I wanted him to resign.”

On succeeding as prime minister from Hussein Onn, he says: “As deputy prime minister, I was a man chosen by a leader who did not have strong support in the party. I was obviously not going to have an easy time and Hussein could not provide much protection for me.

“Hussein had depended on Razak for support when he was chosen as deputy prime minister. When Razak died, Hussein had no great grassroots base to speak of. “The arrests and detention of the so-called communists’ sympathisers high in the party seemed to suggest that his office was influenced by communists.”

The book will be launched tomorrow at 3pm in the East Atrium Concourse (in front of MPH Bookstores), Mid Valley Megamall.It will retail at RM100 and is published by MPH Group Publishing.

March 8, 2011

The Malaysian Insider says: Mahathir’s Memoirs is a great work of fiction

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s autobiography “A Doctor in the House” should be read by all Malaysians because it is an enjoyable book. It is after all a great work of fiction.

Reading the book, one will have to come to only one conclusion — he was not guilty of any wrongdoing in his time as Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister.Take Ops Lalang for example.

Dr Mahathir says that he disliked the Internal Security Act (ISA) because he was once a potential detainee as well, or so he claims.In his autobiography, Dr Mahathir puts forward the argument that he never wanted anyone arrested during one of his administration’s biggest crisis in 1987.

But he was convinced by the police that some arrests would have to be made to prevent another May 13. Dr Mahathir writes that he thought only a few people would be detained, but was flabbergasted by the final number, which was 554.We are sure many Malaysians were also flabbergasted.

He also claimed he was not told that newspapers such as The Star, Sin Chew Daily and Watan would be banned. That’s a good one Doc.

As for the sacking of Tun Salleh Abas as Lord President in 1988, Dr Mahathir makes a fantastic revelation.He claims that Salleh was actually removed because the latter had complained about the noise coming from the renovation works of the King’s private home.

Dr Mahathir says he does not have a copy of the letter and acknowledges the fact that the Attorney-General did not use it during Salleh’s tribunal hearing. He wrote that it would be the A-G who would be in the best position to verify his claim.

That’s convenient. These are just two examples of Dr Mahathir’s amazing stories.He has been an amazing story-teller after all for most of his life. And his book is certainly ‘unputdownable.’ So go ahead. Buy the book. It is a must-read.

Sime Group AGM on November 16, 2010: Answers Required

November 24, 2010

Reminder to Sime Darby Shareholders: The AGM is on November 16, 2010 (10.30 am) at Sime Darby Convention Centre

By Din Merican*

During my days at the parent company of the Sime Darby Group, Sime Darby Berhad, the Annual General Meeting of its shareholders was usually a very timid affair. Shareholders raised very few questions. A few as these questions  might have been, there were answered with conviction and utmost respect for shareholders who are the true owners of the company.

This is because they had the highest regard for Tun Tan Siew Sin and his successor chairman, Tun Ismail bin Mohamad Ali, and the then Group Chief Executive Tunku Tan Sri Ahmad Yahaya who was also a Board Director. All these gentlemen were known for their apolitical and commercial mindset, professionalism, and integrity. I understand that this tradition continued under Chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji bin Abdul Hamid with Tunku Tan Sri Ahmad Yahaya as his Deputy.

Sime Chairman, Tun Musa Hitam

Unfortunately, under the premiership of Abdullah Badawi, things changed. The chairmanship of this illustrious Malaysian flagship multinational corporation with a 100 year history fell into the hands of a political survivor and former Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Musa Hitam (I call him Musang Hitam, or the Black Fox).

This man knows practically nothing about running a corporation. That is to be expected, of course, since all his life Musang Hitam is a thorough-bred politician, who became a partner in the much touted  2M Administration of the early 198os. He was later booted out by Mahathir Mohamad  and replaced by Tun Ghaffar Baba.

Naturally, Musang tends to see things in political terms. Intrigues abound  in Sime today I  have been reliably informed. The problem is compounded with the appointment of retired politically inclined civil servants with few exceptions to the Sime Board.

At this coming annual general meeting , Musang will have  a few questions to answer, unless shareholders are too timid, only happy to enjoy the hospitality that will be laid out for them.

After reading the Sime Darby Group Annual Report for the year ended June 30, 2010 and the Chairman’s statement, I wish to raise a few issues on this blog about Sime Darby Group’s performance in the hope that shareholders can reflect and–then if they deem fit– raise them at the November 16 AGM as follows:

Composition of the Board

The first thing I noticed is that the Group Chief Executive, Datuk Seri Zubir Haji Murshid is not on the Board. He is just a the head of the Management Team. In the past, the Group Chief Executive who chairs the Group Management Committee sits on the Board and forms the vital link between management and the Board, and acts with the full authority of the Board.

The Chairman has no executive role in the Group since his role is strictly supervisory and  his specific task is to preside at Board meetings . The day to day operations of the Sime Group are the responsibility of the Group Chief Executive and his Divisional and Regional Directors, backed by strong system of budgetary and financial controls.

This raises in my mind a three questions: 1) Why the change? Is there is any animosity between Musang Hitam and Datuk Seri Zubir warranting this change?  2) Is Musang Hitam Executive Chairman and Datuk Seri Zubir is only a General Manager with a fancy title of Group Chief Executive ? 3) If Musang is the Executive Chairman, then he must surely be accountable to the Board and shareholders for the affairs of the Sime Group. Is he?

Raja Tan Sri Dato Seri Arshad’s resignation

The second point I wish to raise to the issue of the alleged resignation of Raja Tan Sri Dato Seri Arshad Raja Tun Uda as Senior Independent Non-Director. Prior to his resignation, this well respected  63 year old former Executive Chairman and Senior Partner of PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PwC) was Chairman, Audit Committee and Member of the Risk Management Committee and the Remuneration Committee. I know Raja Arshad very well as Head of the PwC team on the Sime audit and as Treasurer of the Malaysia-British Society. He is a through and a no nonsense type, although gentle and polite in his mannerisms.

Directors not seeking re-election

The third point is the decision of Tun Ahmad Sarji, Bin Abdul  Hamid (72 years old), Dr. Ariffin Mohamad Siregar (former Governor,  Bank Indonesia, 76 years old), Dato Seri Mohamed Sulaiman (&2 years old), Dato Dr. Abdul Halim Ismail (71 years old) and Datin Paduka Zaitoon Dato Othman  (70 years old), and Tan Sri  Datuk Dr. Ahmad Tajuddin Ali (62) are not seeking re-election . But Musang himself (76 years old) and ex-bureaucrat Tan Sri Dato Dr. Wan Mohd. Zahid Mohd. Noordin (70 years) decide  to remain on the Board and seek re-election by shareholders.

Entire Board should resign after the Oil and Gas (O&G) Business Fiasco

One would have thought that after the fiasco in the Energy and Utilities Division for which a sum of RM2.1 billion was made in the financial accounts for provisions and impairments, the entire Board in particular the Chairman should have resigned as a matter of good governance. In stead, we find Musang Hitam seeking re-election at this Annual General Meeting. Shareholders expect  honest answers to these question I raise here, not more public relations responses.

Forensic Report on the Energy and Utilities Division

When the heavy financial losses of the Energy and Utilities Division emanating from the Oil & Gas  (O&G) business first came to light, the Chairman told the investing public that Sime would conduct a proper forensic audit. What happened to the Forensic Report? All  shareholders are told is, and I quote in the Chairman’s message, that “[W]e have identified the problems in the O&G business and are actively addressing them to turn the business around. We are also collaborating with strategic partners to strengthen our capabilities in this business”.

The Question of Dato Seri Zubir

Is that enough? Who are actually responsible for these losses? Why should Dato Seri Zubir alone be held accountable for this major financial loss? It is time in the interest  of full disclosure to release this forensic report so that the curtain on the O&G fiasco can come down and Sime can move forward.

Sime Darby Group is still financially strong

Fortunately, Sime Group is financially strong with total assets of RM37.6 billion (Shareholder Funds at RM 21.1 billion with a healthy cash position of RM4.5 billion). That said, huge losses cannot be sustained over the long term.

Let us hope the new  Board and the management team led by Dato Mohd Bakke Salleh will ensure that the Sime Group, Malaysia’s pioneer multinational corporation, which will be celebrating its 100 years in 2010, will continue to prosper in the years to come.  Prudence not arrogance is the way forward.

* I joined Sime Darby in 1978 as part of the Malaysian team led by Tengku Ahmad Yahaya to bring the company home. I served as Assistant Treasurer, rising through years to be Director of Corporate Affairs and Planning, Divisional Director (Malaysia Region) and Regional Director for Singapore and Indonesia and Managing Director, Sime Singapore Ltd until 1991 when I joined PT. Bakrie Brothers of Indonesia.