This article is not an academic exercise, but plainly written for the man in the street – a truthful presentation of facts & events. – Paul Chong
Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
A Tribute with Repute
A once-upon“goreng pisang” seller who would be king.
Yang Amat Berbahagia Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former Prime Minister of Malaysia, the man who authored “The Malay Dilemma”is sort of in a state of dilemma with his own retirement after 22 years in power. Initially, he was sacked from the UMNO Supreme Council by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the inaugural Prime Minister, and his book (1970) was banned. That was after the racial riot of May 13, 1969. However, a shrewd, cunning & clever politician that he is, he maneuvered his way back from the political wilderness, and on 16 July 1981 established himself as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. What sort of epitaph awaits him? Only time will tell . . . as it is, his political chess game is not over yet . . .
A doctor by profession, he was born in Alor Setar, Kedah in December 1925. Now 83 years young, he’s still mentally alert & physically fit, except for his heart. The youngest of nine children, his school teacher father was a half Indian, son of a Malayalee muslim from Kerala. Mahathir’s own mother, like his own father’s, was a Malay. In Malaysia, we refer these people of Indian-Malay mix as “Mamak”. He graduated as a medical doctor from King Edward VII Medical College (the present National University of Singapore) where he registered as an Indian. Dr. Siti Hasmah binti Haji Mohamad Ali, a fellow doctor & former classmate & a Malay, became his wife. Together they have four sons & three daughters – all filthy rich. To survive during the Japanese Occupation years, he once sold “goreng pisang” (banana fritter).
He is a bit confused about his racial origin, and like all the other migrants from Indonesia & the Arab world, he claims himself to be a “Bumiputra”, which literally means “sons of the soil” – the kind of status that enjoys all the special rights & privileges conferred by law & legislation. For all other racial components, though similarly born & bred in the country, they are denied of the same status, let alone to beget the entitlements.
People who are not native Malays in Malaysia are generally more ultra & extreme in their outlook. I guess they need to prove their loyalty, so to say. Generally too, they are more aggressive, competitive & able than the average lay-back & traditional easy-going Malays, who are largely confined to the rural areas or on the fringes of towns & cities, which historically were established by the Chinese. The Indian component, apart from those involved as labourers in the rubber estates, are also urban in nature engaged in trade & commerce to some extent or as professional.
During his time of political wilderness, Mahathir wrote and published his little book “The Malay Dilemma” in 1970. It was a political exercise & brilliant ploy to attract attention. In it he was attempting to explain as to why the Malays were lesser off than the Chinese, their lack of economic progress, the reasons for the racial riot of May 13, the contributory factors of incest, in-breeding, heredity & also the environment. He even criticised Tunku Abdul Rahman for favouring the Chinese in his administration. The crux of the matter was he wielded a lot of support from the UMNO & he was back on the political road. The rest they say is history.
At different points in his political life, he was & is a figure of great controversy. He used & abused his political associates, criticising & condemning them once their usefulness was over. His political saga with his former deputy, Dato Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is the famous or infamous one. There had been others like Tun Musa Hitam, also once a trusted deputy, Tun Ghaffar Baba, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, affectionately known as Pak Lah, the Prime Minister preceding the present Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak. The present one, raised & supported by him, now appeared to be going on his own way – not listening to him as like Pak Lah. All his big proposed projects have either been shelved or ignored completely. Mahathir is not standing by idly looking on. He is really fuming.
Mahathir is also known to be an outspoken critic of the Westerners. His tongue is either very lose or he’s a big mouth. His quarrels with George Soros, our former Prime Minister Paul Keating, the American or British never failed to hit the headlines. Even across the causeway, he’s not too friendly with Lee Kuan Yew. Here you can sense a tint of jealousy. Mahathir is far from his Singapore rival’s league in terms of recognition, respect & honour. Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew still commands attention in Singapore, he’s a much sought after speaker internationally, & he’s got his name edged in perpetuity in NUS – Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Singapore, without any natural resources, was doomed to fail after its separation from Malaysia, has outpaced & outrun Malaysia in more ways than one – all attributed to Lee Kuan Yew. Mahathir has a great distrust & distaste for the West – definite big critic for Western globalisation.
In all fairness, Mahathir has had some pluses & credits due to him:
longest serving Prime Minister in Malaysia – 22 years
longest serving political leader in Asia
accredited with setting up the first motor industry – Perodua
the building of Pernas Twin Tower, then tallest in the world
also changing the skyline of KL with Telekom Tower
the building of the North-South Freeway for ease &
speed of communication
credited to engineering the rapid modernisation of Malaysia.
These are some of the mega projects at tremendous massive costs to the country. He’s a real successful family man in that his offspring are “fabulously rich”.
When it comes to the question of cost, the public coffer could do without the notorious CCN (more prominent than the CNN of the media world, which came into prominence as a consequence of 9/11 & the Iraq War). However, this CCN, sounds ambiguously like CNN (please confuse them not) stands for Corruption, Cronyism & Nepotism, which are so rampant & deeply rooted that even the most reputable international audit firm wouldn’t dare to handle. This outrageous practice, among those UMNO connected, has & is creating a filthy rich class of people at the expense of the general population & worst of all the poor & deserved society at large, discounting colour, race or creed.
The racial riot of May 13, 1969 marks the water-shed in the history of Malaysia. Prior to this date, there was the unspoken giving & taking that stood at least on a bearable proportion. Since then all hell broke lose and everything of economic value was forcefully ripped off by law & legislation (NEP). Tun Abdul Razak, the second Prime Minister, father of the present Prime Minister, initiated the move with new national education program of language switching from English to Bahasa Malaysia, and the introduction of NEP (New Economic Policy) doing away with the supposedly outdated 5-year Plan.
Of course, the political & economic woes of Malaysia are not attributed entirely to Mahathir. After the initiation launch by Tun Abdul Razak, it was followed by Tun Hussein Onn, & Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (1999 -2003) who came to power after Mahathir’s retirement. Each had a hand in implementing & perpetuating this grossly unfair & unjust practice of sharing the economic cake & other privileges.
The Telekom Tower featuring Mahathir on its
facade during Merdeka Celebration in 2004.
Mahathir, without doubt, topped them all with his brand of politics. He was the supreme leader – anyone not with him would be deemed to be against him. He ruled with iron fists, did away with the independence of judiciary, the separation of law, law & order completely under his belt . . . the list just goes on.
The once “Goreng Pisang” (Banana Fritter) seller became the king of kings.
For twenty-two years he reigned in glory & supreme.
His reign is over but he is reluctant to let go. He expects to be listened to by Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak, the son of Tun Abdul Razak, the man who started it all & who died untimely due to cancer. Najib was really groomed & supported by Mahathir. At the height of May 13, Najib returned from UK as a fresh young inexperienced man & followed his ailing father into politics. He has had an easy ride without an ounce of effort or accomplishment. Opportunities just placed him & fitted him in. His abilities & capabilities have never been shown or exhibited. It could come to pass, as they say, “easy come easy go”.
Democracy as practised in Malaysia is laughable. It’s communal & dominating in style with the Alliance Party in power since independence from the British government. Though the Alliance Party is composed of the other two major communal components the MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association) and the MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress), it has been UMNO (United Malays national Organisation) truly holding the power. The other two are but stooges, plainly standing by without resistance or opposition seeing to the giving & freely taking of all the rights & privileges, while self-fulfilling their own personal agenda at the expense of the population.
Tun Musa Hitam, the then Deputy Prime Minister in the 1970s, had warned the Chinese when addressing a group of us in ADMO (Alliance Direct Members Organisation – long defunct, was only a window dressing organisation for true equality that transcended racial line). Nobody heeded the warning to be more politically involved instead of wholly concentrating on the economic side of affairs. The less competitive Malays wisely seized the political power & thereby established their standing. Everything became to be stamped & controlled by them. The dawn arrived frightfully sooner than imaginable. They have been taking 30% share of everything, without any monetary input or talent, that which you’ve been building through sweat & blood dwindled in size & significance overnight. Even all trading & commerce with China have to be through Pernas, the Malay controlled government agency. Progressively, marginalization set in for the Chinese & the Indians in all spheres of livelihood in the country – education, employment, business, government contracts and others. This they did & are still doing – all in the name of fair & equal distribution of wealth. But is it?
History has a way of repeating itself. Like the majority of the Germans, they were not bothered by the smaller group of Nazis, but then what happened? The Nazis took control of the country & before long history was in the making. History also pointed out to the fall of the great Roman Empire. The house that failed to stand together would soon yield & collapsed. History has proven this from time to time – it has never been proven otherwise.
Be warned about being a frog in the well, for there is such a swell world out there! In this age of globalisation, expect not to be living in political isolation. In the name of international justice, polarization, discrimination, marginalization must not be if men are to be free. “All men are born equal” is globally accepted as the guiding light in the practice of fairness for mankind. No man is an island. We are interlinked & interdependent upon one another. The connectedness of life is obvious between people in the country, also country and country.
It’s obvious that the NEP breeds only an elite class of super rich, benefiting only those with the right connectedness with UMNO. These people have become to be famously known as “UMNOputras”.
Let’s look at the list below, and then you’ll be the sole judge & jury as to what is fair & just or who is being marginalized . . . these among others are under the power & control of UMNO:
Land rights & ownership
Special rights & privileges as provided by NEP
Army, Police & government civil services
Political power in Malays’ hands
All economic policies & law-making
Tertiary education & scholarship awards
Public building contracts
Job availabilities & employment opportunities
Oil companies & banks
There has been an unprecedented brain drain from Malaysia when the brilliant & talented class chose to work & live in foreign lands rather than to be denied of job & promotional opportunities – to be downright discriminated in their homeland. It is a glaring fact, for instance, the Chinese students would need to possess 13As & above to qualify for top university places or awards for scholarships, whereas a Malay could get in with Bs & Cs. All top posts in every field are held by them – and not on meritorious ground.
The list of unfairness, discrimination & dissatisfaction is far too long to state here. Suffice for me to say that the time has come when we say “Enough is enough”.
The NEP was initiated back for an agreed span of 30 years. That period limit has come & gone. It is too good to be giving back that privilege – for the small privileged group never had it so good. Democracy must be practised with meritocracy. Everyone, born & bred in the country, must have the same privilege & opportunity of competing for the expanding economic cake. It’s their birthright!
The shine on the land of the Golden Chersonese is being slowly & surely rubbed off. Lesser land like Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore with less or no natural resources are doing better than Malaysia. There’s got to be a new direction in all fairness to all – a change to be brought about for growth & progress of the nation. Together the nation must stand united as one. It appears the “One Malaysia” slogan has been adopted by Dato’ Sri Najib, the present Prime Minister. However, it is in the proper implementation that will generate the right stimulation. For a starter, all discrimination, polarization & marginalization must go, then work together for the greater goal.
This “Bolehland” is the “Shangril-La” for the “Bumiputras”
where the minorities subsidise & enrich the majority.
Together Malaysians will prevail
Asunder the nation will fail
Look at the global big picture
Strike out of the political quagmire!
Paul Chong ©
A Chinese by Descent
An Australian by Consent
22 August 2009