Sunday, September 16, 2007

A TRIBUTE TO MAHATHIR; ARCHITECT OF MODERN MALAYSIA

HANTU LAUT

Tun Mahathir had his second heart bypass a week ago, eighteen years after his first. Not many man of his age could physically and emotionally be strong enough to go through such operation without fear of complications.The doctor operating him proclaimed him an octogenarian in a sexagenarian body. A man endowed with good physical and mental health that can only come from someone who leads a disciplined lifestyle.A close friend once joked and told me "Mahathir refuses to die before he sees Badawi out of office".

The day he was sacked from UMNO by the the late Tungku Abdul Rahman and his controversial book, the 'Malay Dilemma', which the Tungku took as an insult to the Malay race, was actually a book of self-examination and self-criticism... where and why the Malays have gone wrong and how to correct the social imbalance with other races in the country. He hasn't stopped trying ever since.

Mahathir, probably didn't realize that he has gone against the natural flow of Malay culture. The culture of subservience. An 'adat' of not questioning the elders, no matter how wrong they were. Such 'adat' exists, not only in the Malay culture, but in many other Asian culture.

During his tenure as Prime Minister he was probably the most misunderstood man. He has become an enigma to his own people.During his twenty two years in power he was also not short of controversies.He has thrown in prison opposition leaders, politicians to professionals and anyone whom he perceived as subversive element endangering security of the nation.Many Malaysians took this as an unpleasant behaviour of a dictator.As those who read Shakepeares would remember what Brutus told the people of Rome "Not that I loved Ceaser less, but that I loved Rome more." Mahathir has the notion. He is prepared to sacrifice your personal liberty if he thinks you are a risk to the bigger number.

Any deviant Islamist movement that posed threats to national security would be nipped in the butt during his time.On hind sight, we may have to thank him for his foresight and prompt action to arrest those deviant groups before they become too influential and irretrievably entrenched in the Muslim community. Malaysia, so far had been spared from terrorist's attacks. Al-Qaeida had not been able to make any foothold here. The Philippines and Indonesia weren't as lucky.Pakistan, a country with strong Islamist movement is now becoming a hot bed for terrorism and a potential candidate of a failed state. Civil disobedience and suicide bombing are growing with each passing day.

On the 19th November 1985, a chartered MAS Airbus full of government officials, politicians and Malaysian businessmen was on it way to Beijing, China. Also on board was Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.It was a trade mission and the first visit by a Malaysian Prime Minister to China.I was one of the passengers on that aircraft.

Two hours out of Kuala Lumpur we received a terrible news about a massacre in Memali.The initial report was sketchy and gave heavy casualties on both sides. A much clearer picture emerged when we arrived Beijing.The toll was 14 Islamists dead, 4 policemen killed and an unknown number injured.

Mahathir, by the stroke of good luck escaped the tragic moment and the eventual blame. Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam has to carry the burden for the tragic loss of lives and was accused of gross negligence and mishandling of the crisis. Incidentally, the leader of the group, Ibrahim Mahmud, also known as Ibrahim Libya used to worked as a prosecutor in the Religious division of the Prime Minister's Department.A graduate of Al-Azhar University in Cairo he pursued further religious courses in India and Libya. He must have picked up the extreme version of Islam while in Libya. He was also an active member of PAS.

Another dark chapter in the nation's political history was the Sabah state elections in 1985 where PBS, an opposition party in the state won the elections with a simple majority. A power grab ensued,engineered by sore losers in Berjaya. Having won only 6 seats the dawn raiders used Tun Mustapha of USNO which won 16 seats giving them a coalition of only 22 seats to justify Mustapha to be sworn in as Chief Minister. The rightful candidate Joseph Pairin whose party garnered 26 seats was barred from entering the Istana for swearing in as the rightful chief minister.

By a stroke of good luck, Mahathir was again outside the country.It fell on Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Musa Hitam to deal with the crisis. With a clear conscience and respect for democracy Musa averted an international outcry by advising the Yang Dipertuan Negeri to swear in Joseph Pairin. Mustapha, who has been sworn in earlier took the case to court but lost.After 11 months in office, PBS decided to call a fresh election and won with a bigger majority, collecting 34 out of 48 state seats.

Mahathir, certainly has not been free from faults. The rotation system for the Chief Minister of Sabah was a bad political decision.The system had put back the development of the state significantly behind other states in Malaysia due to break in continuity of a stable administration.If not for his high-handed ways people like Yong Tet Lee, Bernard Dompok and Chong Kah Kiat would never had a chance to be Chief Minister.

The constant bickering amongst the Sabah leaders and their selfishness were probably the reasons for the unconstitutional decision. I wouldn't completely blame Mahathir for it, he probably saw it as a suitable solution to the Sabahan problems.It's the greedy Sabah leaders who should take much of the blame. Even now, they are still harping on the issue of rotation. More ridiculous, there are people in Sabah UMNO who think the seat should be rotated amongst UMNO state leaders, a kind of Sabah UMNO musical chair.

Whatever wrongs he has done during his tenure as Prime Minister, he has done more for the good of the nation.The accelerated development of Malaysia from a tropical backwater into a modern nation was due to his visions and efforts. The whole GDP outlook changed during his time, from an agricultural based economy to multi-sector economy. Great emphasis was given in infrastructural developments. Major development of highways, ports, airports and other infrastructures were given priority.

The Penang Bridge at one time condemned and criticised by the oppositions as a megalomania and wasteful project has now reached maximum capacity. A second bridge is now needed to ease traffic congestion. Some of his seemingly grandiose projects, the butt of jokes and unfair criticism, are now the pride of the nation.

In 1982, when he took over office of Prime Minister, the Malaysia's GDP(at official exchange rate) was US$26.79 billion.In 2006, the GDP was US$138 billion.Much of the momentum for growth was set during his time.

In the early eighties, travel time by car from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore would take six hours or more.A nightmarish drive behind endless convoy of slow moving trucks and cars with little space for overtaking. A depressingly tense journey.Overtaking another vehicle is a risky business and a gamble with your life. Now, with the new highways, Singapore is just a stone's throw away from KL, a drive of less than 3 hours. When he first announced a toll system for the highways there were huge uproar from the opposition political parties and general public.Would anyone complain now that the new highways have cut down their travelling time and safer than before? Yes, they do.Malaysians want everything free.

Mahathir, is a man who learned a lot from observations.Things he sees on his visits to other countries which he thinks benefical to Malaysia would be introduced. His never ending search to pull the country out of the rut and on to the world stage have been met with scepticism, not only at home but also from the international community, particularly the West, whom were not exactly friendly with him.

Mahathir is a man of true grit. He will do what he had to do.No amount of criticism can discourage or stop him.

This man had a burning desire to rehabilitate the Malays.He had diagnosed the problem and believed he has the right prescription. He wanted them to excel in every fields particularly in commerce and industry.He wanted them to be good businessmen and leaders of industry. He wanted to build up the number of wealthy Malays in the hope that they would one day be the biggest contributor to the Malaysian economy and would then help other Malays to climb the corporate ladder. Many government owned companies were privatised to selected Malays whom he believed to have entrepreneurship qualities.He wanted them to be respected by their non-Malay peers.Unfortunately, many of those he helped had disappointed him. Good companies given on the platter were eventually wrecked by mismanagement, incompetence, greed and selfishness. MAS was one of his biggest mistakes. Others, like Pewaja, UEM and many others have incurred huge losses due to mismanagement and corruptions.

Towards the end his fifth term in office, Mahathir had become very unpopular with his own people. The very people he tried very hard to help to change their mindset and progress with the time.The Malays have no more room for him.They have had enough of his domineering ways and often insulting remarks about his kinships. They wanted him out but nobody has the balls to tell him. Nobody knew how much support he stills has.Many complained that he had become a liability to the party but none dare tell him in his face.

On June 22, 2002, Mahathir dropped the biggest bombshell and made a big sacrifice by announcing his resignation as prime minister at the 56th UMNO General Assembly. The delegates were caught by surprise and were in shocking disbelief as there wasn't even a whimper of what they just heard.There was chaos on the floor as delegates tried to make sense of what they just heard.

Sobbing Mahathir was quickly surrounded by senior UMNO officials. The first to reach him were Rafidah Aziz and Hishammudin Onn, pleading and sobbing that he reconsiders his decision. Abdullah Badawi, his deputy requested the delegates to reject his resignation. Mahathir was shunted out of the hall to a closed door meeting. Behind closed doors deals were worked out.

The 'sandiwara' ended with slight deferment to the date of his stepping down. It was later announced that Mahathir will stay on until October 2003 after hosting the OIC Summit.

Mahathir finally stepped down in October 2003 and was replaced by his anointed successor, Abdullah Badawi. Within less than two years the two men have drifted apart.Mahathir continually attacked Badawi for having reneged on his promises.

Mahathir, once the most powerful man in the country, revered and feared by some, hated and feared by some, had become a thorn in the flesh of Abdullah and members his cabinet.The very same people who kissed his hand when he was the giver and the Prime Minister. Mahathir lamented "Melayu senang lupa"(Malays easily forget)

Mahathir didn't have to resign.With his good health he could still carry on for at least another term or two.

Without the slightest doubt, the man resigned to save UMNO from the humiliation of not doing well at the poll because of him. A good leader knew when his tenancy has expired, the one who didn't tend to overstay.

Abdullah's government is now fighting an uphill battle to keep its creditability.The recent exposure by the the Auditor-General of massive mismanagement and corruptions in a number of Ministries and the costly bail-out of the PKFZ would have serious repercussions on the BN in future general elections.

Whatever his enemies say, history will be kind to Mahathir.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a joke and a twist on truth.
The Malay Dilema was the most racist tripe ever published on this earth. It was so bad that Tunku Abdul Rahman had to ban it fearing a racial riot which did happen on May 13th. 1969. Maybe you were not even around yet.

He is an ultra-nationalist to a race he never belonged to. His university entrance documents in Singapore show he is classified as an Indian then. So much to the lie that he is Malay. There again if Abdullah's wife can be reclassified as a Malay, why not?? Anything is possible in Malaysia-even to change your parents and yr heritage for personal gain.

Mahathir's reign was the most corrupt and ruthless. previous rantings to put down the Chinese in order to pander to Malays were slated to the back burner as his cronies backed by rich businessman fight for lucrative government contracts bid at ridiculous tenders. His so called "Malay entrepreneurs" were fronts for bidding for tenders otherwise off bounds to Chinese businessman, breeding a generation of Malays who expect a free lunch at other's expense.
Moral bankruptcy characterized his government officers and ministers and lesser gods in his government. Ministers are able to fornicate with minors, only to have opposition leaders arrested on trumped up charges.
did we forget the Ops Lalang launched very much like the Cultural Revolution in China to weed out political opposition.Every dirty trick was used to hold on to power. In his fight against political opponents within his own party, religion reared its ugly head. Christianity was the victim to appease his Islamic audience that demand his zealous piety. Pretty sad that such hypocrites as recently as last week would welcome the prayers of a christian bishop no less when he is sick in IJN in an interfaith ceremony to pray for his health. Hell should be heated up to welcome him for his sins.

His economic record??
A national car that stays frozen in time, 30 years to be precise, with no ability to innovate or compete in the world arena. Mega projects created to drive a slowing economy and the plundering of national resources in oil. Oil still sold at 20 dollars a barrel as a result of hedging and futures market. Massive corruption still beyond belief.

Judiciary are replaced when judicial decisions go against him. Fights with nearly every world political leader. Short sightedness beyond belief. I remember rantings against western political leaders that called for conservation of forests because of massive logging in East Malaysia with equally corrupt Chief ministers. Few decades of global warmings later, rich corrupt business gives Malaysia no furniture industry.

What has that achieved for his beloved Malays in this modernised competitive global world?? His beloved race still exist in fantasy land where special privileges still exist. May his heart break more as he lies in IJN.
As the saying goes, make your bed and lie in it, hope that this makes him very happy in his dying days.

Hantu Laut said...

Many thanks for your hard-hitting comment.We all are entitled to our own opinion.

I didn't give him full marks but I do believe the man had done some good to the country and where credit is due I would not hesitate to give.If you read what I wrote in the proper perspective, you would realize I didn't glorify him with endless accolades.I have also mentioned where has gone wrong.

There is no doubt there were much corruption during his time.To say his regime is brutal and ruthless would be an over-exaggeration.He may have thrown some opposition leaders in prison under the ISA, but we haven't had any that got murdered or went missing as happened in many tyrannical regimes in Africa,South America and Middle East, where prisoners are brutally tortured and murdered.Malaysia is still a civilised country.

It is also very sad that after 50 years independence racism still exists in the Malay community.What would you make of such people who still question the origin of their fellow Malays?What chance would the Chinese and Indian have if such racialist slur still exists in this country ?

Sometimes, looking inside from the outside, it would be easier to excerbate the situation that are not what it seems.

The only misgiving I have about this country is corruption and the NEP.If you read my other posts, you will find out where I stand on these two subjects.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on the NEP. It only benefits those who gets luccrative govertment contracts and Mahatir cronies. Malays in Singapore have shown that thay are able to stand on their own merits. I believe thay have the same genes as the Malays in Malaysia. Muscle atrophy when it is not used. The chinese do not have special acumen to do business or earn money, they are just willing to do work.

Anonymous said...

To the one who posted the 1st and 3rd comments:

If you are so dissatisfied of Mahathir and his development legacies (I can sense that you're not so happy of Pak Lah either), of NEP, of anything Malay and anything Malaysia, then feel free to leave our fatherland Malaysia for good and look for greener pastures wherever you want, be it in Tibet or Gujarat or Darfur or wherever. You're such an imbecilic, retarded cauvinist. PERGI BERAMBUS!!!