Oct 28, 2013
Kim Jong-un of North Korea, the world’s youngest leader, is usually known as ‘The Great Successor’. He could use other titles like Supreme Leader, First Chairman, Commander and First Secretary, but the one he treasures, because it gives him respect, is the honorary doctorate awarded by HELP University which is based in Kuala Lumpur.
Nowadays, we all take honorary degrees for granted. Despots or those who literally shoot their way to the top, use their titles like badges of honour. Unscrupulous vice-chancellors desperate for donations award honorary degrees like confetti at a wedding.
The honorary award resembles Najib Abdul Razak’s ‘I help you, you help me’. Theoretically, awards may be revoked, if the recipient is involved in human rights abuses or corruption, but few universities are willing. Curtin University has honoured Rosmah Mansor, the self-styled First Lady of Malaysia, and the University of Adelaide gave an honorary doctorate to Sarawak Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud.
Dr Kim’s award brought worldwide notoriety to HELP and its president, Dr Paul Chan, has been villified.
They say that Dr Chan is either stupid or ignorant; he is neither. When Myanmar opened up its doors, there was a stampede of Malaysian businessmen touting for business. North Korea cannot isolate itself forever, but Dr Chan has already got a head start.
Where there’s pain, there’s also gain. Dr Chan has received much flak but he will be rewarded handsomely when more North Koreans enrol at HELP. Perhaps, an invitation to open or advise on an educational facility in North Korea is awaiting him.
Only the naïve will deny that the provision of education is a money-spinner. Parents of legitimate Malaysian students allege that foreign students use some Malaysian universities as a front for their drug or human trafficking business, and money-scamming activities are rarely investigated.
In late September, security forces at border crossings were placed on red alert, to stop any attempt to smuggle the ashes of former Communist Party of Malaya leader Chin Peng. Malaysians were warned against glorifying him. A week later, the government lauded two communist leaders.
On Oct 3, the North Korean ambassador, on behalf of Kim Jong-un, accepted the award from Dr Chan, at a simple ceremony in the North Korean Embassy, in Kuala Lumpur. Kim was the first foreign head of state to receive the honorary degree from HELP, but why was the news report suppressed for three weeks?
The following day, on Oct 4, Najib feted the Chinese leader, President Xi Jinping, who had arrived for bilateral talks. A mixed message is being sent out and the contrast between the treatments meted out to Chin Peng and the two communist heads of state, couldn’t be more startling.
A dead communist is worth two live ones
A dead communist is worth at least two live communist leaders. Chin Peng’s armed struggle and atrocities can be revived, whenever the need arises, to scare the rakyat about an imminent communist threat.
Although Chin Peng fought for Malayan independence, he does not bring any economic value, unlike the PRC which is a world economic power, like North Korea, which is another Myanmar in the making. Chin Peng is worth more dead than alive. He will be a tool for spreading government propaganda.
When critics slammed Dr Chan for not exercising judgment and for failing to use ethical considerations when conferring the award, they should have focussed their attacks on the Malaysian government. It is believed that Malaysian universities are required to obtain authorisation before conferring honorary awards to foreign heads of state, therefore Najib’s government is not as innocent as it would like us to believe.
Malaysians are haunted by the evils of communism and North Korea is one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Motivational propaganda songs are sung with religious zeal or blasted-out on construction sites, to boost worker productivity. Older Malaysians recall that during the 80s, nationalist songs were constantly played on TV and radio.
While many North Koreans go hungry, the communist élite dine on imported delicacies and drink. In the presence of foreign visitors, the plentiful array of food gives the impression of wealth and excess, rather like the lavish displays of food at open houses of BN politicians.
As Dr Chan is aware, children of the North Korean élite can afford to study overseas. The pampered child knows little about the sufferings of poorer children. In Malaysia, good education is guaranteed to children of the élite Umno Baruputras, many of whom are not aware that children in rural areas have no proper schools and are starving.
While most children enjoy playing war games with Playstation, Dr Kim toys around with live missiles, from his massive arsenal of weaponry, which includes nuclear weapons. Friendship with Dr Kim carries the risk of being spied on by America, especially as Malaysia has discarded its moderate Muslim image.
The sense of isolation in North Korea is heightened when its citizens are told that they are surrounded by enemies and they must give their utmost loyalty and obedience to their leaders to protect them. Malays are told that their race is under siege, their culture and religion need defending, and the underlying theme is that only Umno Baru can protect the Malays.
The workforce of communist North Korea has limited production capability, because its workers have no real incentives to work harder. With the New Economic Policy (NEP) and Ketuanan Melayu, there are few incentives for Malays to be productive.
State provides from cradle to grave
All that a North Korean could possibly want, is provided for him by the state; from cradle to grave. His schooling, the food he eats, and his job are provided. As long as he accepts what the system offers and is not critical, he is fine. Malaysia’s repressive laws restrict many of our freedoms, and criticism of the government is not tolerated.
Malaysia’s freedom of speech and expression is marginally better than North Korea but the media is severely restricted in both countries. All of this stifles creativity and individualism. In both countries, the people have to struggle with their conscience, because they are afraid to say what they think.
Looking at the grey, drab uniforms of the high ranking officials of North Korea, reminds us that they belong to an élite group of people. At special occasions, members of Umno Baru wear identical shirts, reminding us that they are also a cut above the rest.
Malaysia is a democracy but the top two positions in Umno Baru are not contestable. Cheating in the country’s general election returns the same party every five years, so how different is this to the one party system of the communist countries?
Three generations of the Kim family have ruled North Korea with an iron fist. Some Malaysian politicians aim to emulate this success. The men in the Kim dynasty are infamous for their mistresses and recently, Dr Kim is alleged to have ordered the execution of his mistress, to assuage his wife’s anger.
The parallels between communism and Umno Baruism are obvious. The one lesson at which the communists excel, which Umno Baru is unable to learn, is the manner in which corrupt politicians and party officials are punished.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).