Mahathir — Malaysia’s enigma

By Jema Khan

AUG 30 — To make sense of the various ongoing debates on the NEP, one has to have a sense of history especially for the time when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister.

During his 22 years as PM, the main priority of the nation was to develop at all costs. The man worked 16 hours a day, was well-read, intelligent, soft-spoken and most of all, he listened well.

He was tenacious when it came to policy; it was often his way or the highway. His detractors would call him a dictator for undermining institutions such as the judiciary and using the ISA against his political opponents. Nevertheless, when he stepped down as PM in 2003, he was still largely popular among all the races in Malaysia.

It is only lately with the advent of Perkasa that Tun Mahathir’s popularity started to wane. Many, me included, want a new dawn in Malaysia with the ideals of 1 Malaysia and the NEM to be fully implemented in the country. Clearly this view differs markedly from Perkasa’s. However, to simply paint Tun Mahathir as a racist ignores his 22 years as PM when he was clearly not.

The first example was alluded to by SP Setia’s, Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, where he claimed that the Chinese too benefited from the NEP pointing to the 40 richest Malaysians where 73 per cent of the wealth in this group is held by the Chinese or where eight out of the top 10 are Chinese. Of course these benefits did not trickle down sufficiently to the other 99 per cent of the people, regardless of race, and that is where I believe most people actually object to the NEP.

But cronyism during Tun Mahathir’s time was a multiracial thing where you had a chance for a piece of the pie regardless of race. I can still remember the time when those in Umno complained that they had not got their just desserts and Tun Mahathir simply published a list of all the Malay beneficiaries which numbered in the thousands for all to see at the Umno annual general meeting.

The second example is unique to Sabah, where he promised that if the Barisan Nasional took Sabah, he would rotate the position of Chief Minister in Sabah among the major races. Against strong resistance from Umno Sabah, he kept his word.

The third example was his changing the education curriculum where science and mathematics were to be taught in English. He did this against a backdrop of major resistance from the Malay academics. To label Tun Mahathir a racist or an ultra Malay, especially during his time as PM is simply wrong.

From my perspective, having sometimes differed from Tun Mahathir even when he was PM, it is clear that he wants to save Umno and is prepared to put his legacy on the line to do it. While I sympathise with his predicament, I don’t believe we can turn back, for the current and future well-being of the nation. We must continue to fight for our individual human rights, meritocracy, justice, the elimination of corruption and to be Malaysian first and everything else second.

We must remember that some of the hottest topics today, such as the caning of women and the use of the “A” word, were never an issue when Tun Mahathir was the PM. The situation has changed and we must act to put things right.

If by reading this, you believe that I have a high regard for Tun Mahathir, you would be right and I make no apologies for that. However, I absolutely do not agree with him on Perkasa. I do not believe in the NEP. I do not believe in the “ketuanan” philosophy. I do not believe in perpetuating any abuse of power.

In any event it is the people who will decide through the ballot box as to which party wins the next election. It is my belief that the majority will vote for the party that is more liberal, tolerant and prepared to give the people their basic human rights and freedoms.

In essence, those in their forties and fifties, like me, have a duty to ensure that this country must be on the right path. We cannot abrogate our duty to faith or hope. It is our watch and we must do whatever it takes to protect this country. We should know better and it is incumbent on us to affect society in the right direction.

  1. #1 by HJ Angus on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 6:24 pm

    for me, the sacking of the Judges was the turning point in my admiration of TDM.
    Granted, he was a good politician adroit at pulling all the levers of power but in that case, he overstepped the boundary of a good leader.
    After that, it was only to look after Numero Uno and nothing to do with Malaysia’s progress.

  2. #2 by Loh on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 7:50 pm

    Mahathir’s words on meritocracy again

    By Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on August 30, 2010 1:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (0)


    ///1. I dislike to return to this subject but I need to explain myself.

    2. I was prompted to write about the racism in meritocracy because of the reaction to Malay criticisms against the ideas coming out of the Chinese Economic Congress.

    3. The leader who made the statement on doing away with quotas etc said that cannot we discuss anything without (the Malays) raising racial issues. He apparently considers his call for meritocracy was not racial. ///– Mahathir

    I too regret that I have to comment on his writing with regard to racial issue.

    The person was certainly right to think that meritocracy was not a racial issue because no race could claim monopoly on the practise of true meritocracy.

    ///4. It is racial because he was advocating taking away the protection afforded by the NEP and quotas from the bumiputras and not from any other race. Obviously he believes that without these protections the bumiputera would lose against the non-bumiputera.///– Mahathir

    The protection afforded by NEP was racial because it ‘protects’ the beneficiaries based on race rather than on the needs for protection. Indeed, the inclusion of article 153 in the constitution was based not on the fact that Malays were inferior to non-Malays, but on the recognition at that time that proportionately more Malays were at a disadvantaged position compared to non-Malays. The lazy framers of the Malayan Constitution considered it proper to group those people who needed assistance by race, rather than by needs. They considered it easier to recognize Malays from non-Malays. But article 160 makes it now difficult to differentiate Malays from Indian Muslims. That is perhaps the reason why Indian Muslims can become associate members of UMNO now.

    NEP and article 153 are racist in nature. The removal of those articles is to stop racism. Nobody talks about whether one person is superior to another, and it is meaningless to even make comparison between two individuals, let alone the comparison of different communities. The politicians use such spurious comparison to advance racist support at the voting booths. The opportunists who used politics for self aggrandisements and wealth creation have chosen race as the most convenient issue to meet their objectives. Now political-has-been uses it to create political dynasty. The desires of opportunists know no bound.

    ///5. As much as giving protection to one race is racial, taking it away from that race so as to benefit another race must also be racial. The suggestion coming as it did from a racially exclusive economic congress must be because it is in the interest of that race. That must be racial even though the demand is for meritocracy.///– Mahathir

    If fighting racism is racial, then writing about race in neutral context is racial. The convoluted thinking residing in the mind of a PM for 22 years gives reason why Malaysia is in a mass. The country should perhaps be renamed. MALASSIA.

    ///6. I am not proud of the protection afforded the bumiputera. It implies weakness. I don’t think Malays and other bumiputera like to think that they are inferior in any way.///–Mahathir

    These are crocodile tears.

    ///7. But the reality is that in Malaysia the bumiputeras need new skills and a new culture even. These cannot be had by them in a mere 20 years. The original planners of the NEP were too optimistic.///– Mahathir

    NEP came 13 years after independence and two years ahead of the review of article 153. So when NEP should have ended in 1990, bumiputras had already enjoyed 33 years of preferential treatments compared to other races. Nobody could do exercise for another’s physical benefit, and the persons who are trained to perform better have to put in more efforts. Government funds might provide facilities but unless those facilities are properly utilized, trainees would not become trained and proficient just by government throwing ringgit at them.

    The Malay culture before it had been influenced by NEP and perhaps article 153 was superb. Malays who are the pride of their race like the Tunku, Tun Dr Ismail, Tun Hanif, Saleh Abas and many others were the product of Pre-Merdeka Malay culture. NEP was an excuse to explain away the cause of May 13, and a convenient means to justify why Tunku was dethroned. The 20 years period of unfair policy promised by Tun Razak did not stop two million tax payers leaving; Razak called it good ridden. Racist leaders are now happy that Malaysia has improved its purity in terms of Islamic followers.

    ///8. I had suggested merit for university entrance in order to shock the bumiputera into getting serious about their education and their own future. However it did not work.///– Mahathir

    If the merit system has been implemented right through the education system, the country would benefit in having the required human resources. The rots that have been set in place for decades cannot be removed immediately by a mere suggestion of merit for university entrance. Moreover that suggestion might not have been implemented by the little Napoleons.

    ///9. In education whereas there is about 60% bumiputera in the Government universities, there are less than 10% in the private universities. And there are more private universities, university colleges and colleges than there are public (Government) universities. Even the 10% bumiputera are there because of scholarships by MARA. Take the scholarships away and there would be practically none.///– Mahathir

    That statistics says only that non-Malays who were denied the chance to go to public universities had to take up places in private universities and pay their fees in full. Yet Mahathir is proud to rub salt into wounds telling us that Malays get scholarships not only into public universities but in private universities, at a high cost, as well.

    ///10. Why is it that the focus is only on what is done by the Government? If the bumiputera in Government universities should be reduced, then the bumiputera in the private universities should be increased. Or else meritocracy would reduce the number of bumiputeras getting university education. Or is it the intention to deny bumiputeras higher education? They are not the best but they are qualified.///

    The focus should be on what the government is doing because the government uses public funds to do what it did. Those funds belong to all Malaysians, irrespective of races. Government funds should take care of all citizens, not just the Malays. UMNO favours Malays to get them to vote for UMNO in return. That is corruption of national scale.

    Nobody deny Malays higher education. Meritocracy does not deny Malays the high proportion of enrolment into Government universities. The practice of meritocracy only ensures that all races stand a same chance of getting into the universities based on their hard work. For the nation, meritocracy ensures that graduates are employable, and human resources are not wasted. The only drawback of meritocracy is to UMNO politicians who cannot claim that they favour Malays over non-Malays. Meritocracy is only bad for UMNO but not bad for the nation or the Malay race since they could stand proud that they are where they are based on merits.

    When there are limited resources, only the best should be considered. It is a waste of human resources when the best students of some races are denied admission so that students of other races who were qualified but worse off got the places. Qualifications for entrance consideration are not cast in stone, besides they are subjective.

    11. It is the same with foreign universities. Because they can afford it there are more non-bumiputera than bumiputera in foreign universities. This must increase the disparities in higher education between different races.

    Mahathir is clearly jealous of non-Bumiputras students who could afford to study overseas. Mahathir’s concerned about that disparities reveal that he was relieved that overseas students do not come back to compete with Bumiputras. He would have hoped that none of the non-Bumiputras who study abroad would return. His observation goes against Najib’s suggestion of inviting former Malaysians to return. That must be one of the reasons why he is against NEM.

    ///12. Lest I be accused of making unfounded assumption, a proper audit should be done by an impartial team.

    13. When I was still PM, the Government decided to allow for private colleges and universities to be set up. They can twin with recognised foreign universities and should issue their diplomas and degrees. The reason for allowing private institutions of higher learning is to reduce cost of tertiary education so that the parents who could not afford to send their children abroad can have access to foreign qualification from local private institutions. You can guess who are the beneficiaries of this Government policy.///– Mahathir

    If that policy had not been in place, an additional a million or more Chinese and Indians could have left this country. Najib will have to answer that whether he chooses to have a million more tax payers to remain or to go. It has been reported that the number of tax payers in the country is less than the total number of civil servants now employed.

    ///14. As for contracts even with the 5% advantage given to bumiputera contractors, many of the Government contracts do not go to them because of their lack of capacity. Even if they do get, non-bumiputera contractors get most of the sub-contracts etc.///– Mahathir

    Without the non-bumiputras sub-contractors who were willing to feed parasites government projects might still be unfinished projects.

    ///15. Actually construction by the private sector is bigger than the public sector. In the private sector the bumiputera contractors get next to nothing. I suppose this is because the private contracts are given based on merit. Or maybe it is not. I don’t know.///–Mahathir

    If Mahathir ever buys anything he would have spent money for its worth. Only government could bully non-bumiputras. The government even bullies non-Bumiputras to pay more for houses and to subsidize Bumiputras buyers in the process. If bumiputras contractors get next to nothing, it shows that they are not interested in getting contracts from the private sector, because it is easier to make more money from government contracts.

    The government claims that non-Bumiputras are not interested in employment in the public sector! I suppose that is the same logic.

    ///16. Take away the minor protection afforded by the NEP and the bumiputera will lose whatever that they may have. Then racial division will be deepened by wealth division. I don’t think this would be good for the country. Remember it was the disparity between rich and poor in Europe which led to the violence of the Communist revolution.///–Mahathir

    If NEP discrimination against non-Malays is consider minor protection afforded to bumiputras, on wonders what other areas of unfair practises have not yet been implemented. If that “minor’ NEP ‘inconvenience’ could have cost two million non-Malays to give up on Malaysia, how many more would leave when UMNO decides that additional minor protection is needed to be given to Malays?

    The wealth disparity among the Malays have never been so extreme since independent with the super rich belonging to the NEWMalays, particularly of those with spoonfuls of Indian and Pakistani blood. Was there no jealousy of the have-nots against the haves just because they share the same religion?

    The leaders of the communist party told the people to hate those who were rich just like UMNO telling Malays that Chinese and Indians were better off than them, and that they should feel jealous of non-Malays. But after the demise of communism, UMNO’s ex-president still practises communalism.

    ///17. I may be labelled a racist but fear of the label will not stop me from working for what I think is the good of the country. Nothing will be gained by dividing the people of Malaysia into poor bumiputera and rich non-bumiputera. The time is not right for disregarding the disparities between the races in the interest of equity and merit.///–

    It would appear from the above that there were neither rich bumiputras nor poor non-bumiputras in Malaysia. Ever since 1957, the phrase “disparities between races” have been used by UMNO leaders to gain political power. Strangely, the person who used it and enjoyed political power for two decades still harps on the same theme now. Lee Siang Loong, the PM of Singapore gave his national day address yesterday talked about Singapore dreams. Mahathir continues to talk about Malays’ crutches and Malaysians’ nightmare.

    ///18. For 46 years this country enjoyed relative stability and consequently good growth. But today the races are more divided than ever. Everyone has become racist, talks about meritocracy notwithstanding. Everyone is thinking about his own race. If I am included it is because I think it is dangerous for the rich to take away what little the poor has. ///–Mahathir

    The rich Malays, particularly the not-so-Malay Malays are taking away resources which ought to be had by the poor Malaysians, including Malays. That does not seem to be dangerous in the mind of Mahathir. He used the word ‘rich’ to represent non-Malays and the poor the Bumiputras, with the word ‘little’ to mean ‘minor protection’ NEP was to serve the Malays. Mahathir chose the word bumiputras to give the impression that NEP benefited non-Malay bumiputras. That is a sly statement.

  3. #3 by boh-liao on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 7:58 pm

    MMK was very lucky during his reign there was no Internet 2 publicise his dirty, corrupt n evil deeds, n he managed 2 brainwash, terrorise, n cow lots of ppl into thinking him as Bapa this n Bapa dat
    MMK was very lucky during his reign China, India, Vietnam were not as open as now n FDI poured in2 M’sia
    Those who hv high regard 4 MMK, plz study carefully d sad state dat we r in 2day in many areas n U will certainly trace d seeds of destruction were sown during MMK’s reign
    Bcos we allowed MMK 2 sodomise us n d system, we r reaping what we allowed him 2 sow

    With our natural resources, talents, n multiracial rakyat, we COULD hv been such a wonderful nation, if only properly n fairly governed
    What do we hv now?
    Nonstop noise over sodomy, mysterious murders, racist remarks, corruption, …..
    Very sad indeed after 53 yrs of Merdeka as Malaya

  4. #4 by boh-liao on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 8:04 pm

    Maha racist MMK kept harping upon RACE
    Bcos he gave up his ancestor’s race 2 transform himself in2 another race
    N he die die must ensure dat he n his descendants must benefit huge fr his new race
    Otherwise what a waste 2 give up his ancestor’s race

  5. #5 by SENGLANG on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 8:16 pm

    This man is one of the best and could the best politician on Earth. He also one of the man who not only abused his own intelligent but also abused what ever that come to his way. This man also has the biggest ego and he abused his ego to the utmost. He did not has Lost in his memory and could only win in all his dealing. This made him the perfect politician. He did thing his own and without the regards what will happen next. He may have the vision but unfortunately he also abused his vision until he led us to suffered in generations to come. He believe in what he did and he will do all to keep his works even later he found that was not good.

    The most dangerous was that he carry out his punch even he was officially retired from all office. He just love power and off course he also love money that will never be able to carry along with him.

    This man ego will bring all the suffering and he has promote corruption to the fullest and abusing of power will live on with or with out him.

    This man is the most dangerous ever born on Earth.

  6. #6 by Loh on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 8:28 pm

    ///Clearly this view differs markedly from Perkasa’s. However, to simply paint Tun Mahathir as a racist ignores his 22 years as PM when he was clearly not.///–Jema Khan

    It is difficult to call an Indian a racist when he fought for Malays. But then he used race as an issue when it was not one, during Tunku’s regime.

    His 22 years as PM turned this country into the most corrupted in Asia. He destroyed all government institutions which might not recover to perform their functions. That makes Malaysia government a secret society in government form.

    ///The first example was alluded to by SP Setia’s, Tan Sri Liew Kee Sin, where he claimed that the Chinese too benefited from the NEP pointing to the 40 richest Malaysians where 73 per cent of the wealth in this group is held by the Chinese or where eight out of the top 10 are Chinese. Of course these benefits did not trickle down sufficiently to the other 99 per cent of the people, regardless of race, and that is where I believe most people actually object to the NEP.///

    Other than those who collude with UMNO politicians six million and more Chinese have to suffer at NEP in all areas of living. Only persons who are selfish would ever make those statement, and one wonders whether it was made out of duress.

    The Chinese community would be happy that those so-called Chinese tycoons would be made to become Malays so that NEP could actually say that Malays have 30% of the equity share. It is because of these 40 Chinese tycoons that the six million ordinary Chinese suffer. So NEP is good for 40 Chinese but bad for six million Chinese. In a democracy, guess what the six million Chinese would vote. But some among the 40 Chinese use their money to advance UMNO interest. Are the ordinary Chinese happy with those 40 Chinese who enjoy at the suffering of the six million Chinese?

  7. #7 by drngsc on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 8:46 pm

    This man is all evil. He is prepared to stir up the populace to fight. Maybe it is a type of post-bypass pump syndrome ( he has two pump encephalopathy ). Instead of being like his contemporary leaders, behaving like an elder stateman, he has remain a third world stirrer of trouble. Even the devil do not want him. That is why he is still here and not dead. God forgive him, for I surely cannot.

  8. #8 by Winston on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 8:48 pm

    This mouth piece of Dr M really got more than he bargained for!
    The pieces skewing him is even longer than his essay!!
    Serves him right!

  9. #9 by cemerlang on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 10:17 pm

    Once upon a time, many God or ” A ” believing people think that he is God or ” A ” sent and they pray for his salvation. He is Bapa Pemodenan. Development and a quiet strong character is what they wanted for a leader. But then again, others have their own preferences. Can we say that he wants Malaysia to be as dignified as he is ?

  10. #10 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 10:29 pm

    Hi Jema Khan, I think u thought u probably know a little about THE Man. Obviously u don’t really know more than the average university kid.

    And Jema, u probably haven’t been around much these days…hibernating somewhere, eh? And “Malaysian Maverick” is news to u.

    OK, even “Malysian Maverick is less than half the story told about yr great legend. If u know more, u wud probably puke.

    I thought him smart once, different and courageous too, for a while. That was before I got to study him more cosely.

    I think, Jema, the likes of such awesome men are better off in the company of God than of men. They are too much for earthlings to handle. And now he is proving to be more than an earful with his mouthfuls.

    U r talking as if Perkasa is his only SIN. Oh, Jema, wherefore have u been all these years? Now why don’t u pack yr bags and return to yr hibernating hole. We wouldn’t miss u either.

  11. #11 by cseng on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 11:21 pm

    Jema Khan, maybe you are right, maybe you are wrong, or maybe you just don’t know what you don’t know.

    Or Maybe, Bary Wain has something to tell you.

    But for me, if a person can view meritocracy as racist, view anti-racism as racist! he is not racist, he is just insane.

  12. #12 by good coolie on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 11:47 pm

    Dr. Mahatir, author of “Bumiputra”. Pleas coin a word for me, like “Buminonputra” . At least I can be a “bumi”, too. Don’t put me in the bumi though!

  13. #13 by Taxidriver on Monday, 30 August 2010 - 11:55 pm

    Jema Khan, you said he ( his name not worth mentioning ) was not racist in his 22 years as PM? He was still largely popular among all the races when he stepped down? Come on, Jema, I believe you were just a primary school boy; too young to make a proper analysis of matters when he was PM. I am dead certain in the year 1969, on the 13th day of May, you were not even born yet! Then, the man who you praised so highly was a active member in UMNO-considered a rising star, to be exact. So, Jema, ask those uncles uncles above 60 years old and maybe you will “çhange your gola post” ( just to borrow the words of MACC chief counsel in TBH Inquest )

    Jema, I will not say he did’nt do anything good for the nation while he was PM for that would be unfair to him. But the fact is he did more harm to the country and rakyat. The man was so corrupt he even allowed corruption to take root among his ministers, friends and cronies for reasons I need not mention. What he said outside UMNO ( to the media ) were usually pleasant to hear especially, to the non-Malays. But when inside UMNO behind closed doors, it is something else. He is sly, greedy for power and wealth and a scheming devil. He is dangerously gifted in the sense that he he can choose to remember or forget whenever he likes.

    When the man was finally forced to step down, Majority of Malaysians heaved a sigh of relief. People lived in fear of him. Now Jema, who raped the Judiciary? Who bastardise all the Government Institutions? Was not he who sacked Judges who were fair and passed judgements which were unfavourable to UMNO (government), and later setting up Boot Camps for Judges?

    With all the nonsense that the man did, how could he be popular among Malaysians who struggled and still struggling ( because of him ) for a True Democracy?

  14. #14 by raven77 on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 1:23 am

    Did you watch the History channel program on the Malayan Emergency…Malayans really fought terror…

    Pity there was no revolution to kick this Mamak back to hell, across the Thai Border ot at least back to Kerala when he wholly killed this country with all his general practice kelentong….but I feel God is keeping him alive for a reason….and the reason being the people in this country can punish him first before God punishes him even more….

  15. #15 by Loh on Tuesday, 31 August 2010 - 7:22 am

    raven77 :
    Did you watch the History channel program on the Malayan Emergency…Malayans really fought terror…
    Pity there was no revolution to kick this Mamak back to hell, across the Thai Border ot at least back to Kerala when he wholly killed this country with all his general practice kelentong….but I feel God is keeping him alive for a reason….and the reason being the people in this country can punish him first before God punishes him even more….


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