Dr M: Najib must be firm

By Dan Martin
Free Malaysia Today
June 17, 2012

He was skeptical of Najib’s liberalising moves and suggested authorities are too soft on a rising movement demanding free and fair elections

KUALA LUMPUR: Influential former strongman Dr Mahathir Mohamad has thrown his weight behind a Malaysian conservative pushback against growing calls for change, saying reform could lift the lid on ethnic tensions.

In an interview, the 86-year-old authoritarian icon expressed wariness over liberalising moves by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and suggested authorities were too soft on a rising movement demanding free and fair elections.

“We need a government that is firm. It should be fair. It should be firm,” Mahathir said in his futuristic 86th-floor office in the crown of the sky-scraping Petronas Towers high above the capital Kuala Lumpur.

His comments come after police used tear gas and water cannon in April 28 clashes with protesters demanding changes to an electoral system they view as biased.

Tens of thousands took part in the march through the capital, rattling the ruling party and triggering a wave of sharp conservative rhetoric against reform proponents.

Najib, who must call elections by early next year, has moved to soften some of the decades-old draconian security controls frequently employed by Mahathir during his 22 years in power.

But Mahathir, who retired in 2003, warned too much freedom risked stirring an ethnic hornet’s nest.

“Now that we want to be liberal, what has happened is that now we are more race-conscious than before. Today people are accusing each other of being racist,” said Mahathir, looking somewhat frail but his mind still sharp.

About 60 percent of Malaysia’s 28 million people are Muslim ethnic Malays who are assured political supremacy under a system that also grants them preferences in business and education.

Malaysia has sizeable Chinese and Indian minorities, many of whom chafe under the system.

Eyeing minority votes, Najib has promised to look into the relevance of those policies, while the opposition has said they should be abolished.

But Mahathir, who commands great prestige after helping turn Malaysia into a stable and prosperous nation with a mix of pro-development polices and authoritarian controls, warned change could inflame Malays.

“There is more antagonism between races than before there was this liberalisation,” he said.

The opposition has dismissed such ruling-party warnings as fear-mongering.

No Spring rising here

Mahathir also said a Najib campaign to promote racial unity was “not clearly defined.”

He added that Najib’s pledge late last year that people would no longer be jailed for their political beliefs — part of his moves to relax security controls — opens the door to extremism.

“What happens, of course, is that when you open up things — you become liberal — it is the extremists, the aggressive ones, who project their views,” said Mahathir.

“Where there was no problem, now there is a problem.”

Seeking to claw back big opposition gains in 2008 polls, Najib is seen to be walking a tightrope between voters seeking change and powerful conservative forces in his Malay-dominated ruling party and the government that it has controlled for 55 years.

Mahathir said allegations of electoral bias were “sheer nonsense,” and that majority Malays saw the April reform rally as the government failing “to stop the kind of violence that they (protesters) indulge in.”

The clean-elections movement has sparked talk in Malaysia that it could be the leading wedge of an “Arab Spring”-style outburst.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has evoked that spectre as leverage to push for change, while hardliners cite it as justifying a tough stance against dissent.

But Mahathir dismissed the possibility of Malaysians rising up, noting they enjoy more freedoms and are far more well-off than the Arab masses.

He seemed less sure on whether ruling party forces, entrenched in government since independence in 1957, would easily yield power — an opposition concern — if they lost what is expected to be a close election.

“Well, we should hope for a smooth transition, but if (the ruling coalition) doesn’t do well, it is not a good thing for this country,” he said.

  1. #1 by mickeytiger2006 on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 3:37 pm

    Mahatir, please keep your mouth shut and mind your own business. You have already create enough havoc to this nation and in fact u r real racist and dictator thru and thru. Please keep your mouth shut and do not utter rubbish anymore as this way you might live a little longer. A real hardcore hypocrite. Anyway Najib is finished. Don’t finish him off so fast, just keep your mouth shut and stop talking nonsense!

  2. #2 by sotong on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 3:54 pm

    ” warned change could inflame Malays “.

    The majority of ordinary Malays want change now!

    They had enough of bad leadership, gross mismanagement, rampant corruption, huge national debt and etc. destroying the country…..they have great fear for their future.

  3. #3 by Loh on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 3:56 pm

    ///Dr Mahathir Mohamad has thrown his weight behind a Malaysian conservative pushback against growing calls for change, saying reform could lift the lid on ethnic tensions.


    We need a government that is firm. It should be fair. It should be firm,” Mahathir said.///–

    Mamakthir has never been fair with regard to the treatment of different ethnics groups where racial discrimination against the minority groups has been institutionalized beginning earlier and firmly established during his reign. That is why he said that reform, or rolling back in racial discrimination could lift the lid on ethnic tensions. Mamakthir’s statement implies that through reform, the institutionalized discriminatory policies against the minority group might stop, and the end of racial discrimination alone would bring about the wrath of Malays, and that is how ethnic tensions would surface.

    That was the argument to justify NEP after May 13. Malays were said to be angry simply because they were jealous of the economic success of non-Malay communities, and that extreme hatred caused May 13. Is that true? 43 years after May 13, we know from Tan Sri Ahmad Abdullah who was with the late Tun Razak on the afternoon of May 13 just before riots broke out, who said that had Tun Razak called Harun Idris half and hour earlier than he did to tell Harun to disperse the crowd and that Tan Chee Khoon and Lim Chong Eu had called him to say that Selangor could have Harun continue as Mentri Besar, May 13 could have been avoided.

    May 13 has nothing to do with animosity of people because of their economic position. It was the outcome of political manoeuvring. But Tun Razak utilized May 13 to launch NEP through portraying Malays in bad light and accusing Malays culpable of harbouring jealousy of the achievements attained by non-Malays in economic fields. Politicians claimed too that Malays chose May 13 to express simultaneously their extreme anger and they brought about loss of life.

    Now Mamakthir implies that being unfair is congenital to Malays who want the discriminatory practices against non-Malays to continue. Are Malays living up to Mamakthir’s expectation?

  4. #4 by Loh on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 4:43 pm

    ///“Now that we want to be liberal, what has happened is that now we are more race-conscious than before. Today people are accusing each other of being racist,” said Mahathir///–Mamakthir

    People are race conscious because the government makes it a point to ask which race one belongs and based on it he is either discriminated or favourable treated. It is the government that create racial sensitivities among the people. Having done that, it is illogical to justify that one cannot be liberal because people are becoming race conscious. It is most ridiculous that discussion on race cannot be carried out but discrimination based on race should be institutionalized and cast in stone.

    The so-called affirmative action makes people race conscious. The longer that differential treatment of people based on race, the worse it becomes. The solution lies in removing the race-related government policies, not sweeping it below the carpet.

    Malaysians knew about Mamakthir’s racism ever since he claimed in the 1964 general election in Kota Setar that he did not depend on Chinese votes to win. With internet we see more people calling Mamakthir racist. Ironically this racist gave up his own race, Kakak of Calicut, Kerela India, to claim that he is Malay and he projects himself as Malay champion. Are there no true Malays to represent them? The constitutional Malays have indeed made Malay race disappear from the face of this earth!

  5. #5 by Loh on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 4:44 pm

    ///“There is more antagonism between races than before there was this liberalisation,” he said.///–Mamakthir

    How would he explain that people are more antagonistic towards one another now than before, possible before NEP? It only shows that NEP cannot bring about racial harmony. It is bad that NEP has been going one for 40 years. Racial relation would only become worse if NEP is not removed.

  6. #6 by Loh on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 4:55 pm

    ///Mahathir said allegations of electoral bias were “sheer nonsense,” and that majority Malays saw the April reform rally as the government failing “to stop the kind of violence that they (protesters) indulge in.”///–Mamakthir

    Mamakthir shows clearly how biased his views are. He has unabashedly claimed that the few tens of thousands supporters who took part in Bersih 3.0 did not know what they were doing.

    Mamakthir claimed that the majority of Malays wanted the government to take more high handed actions than the police did to Bersih 3.0. Did these majority show up somewhere to convey that message? There were not to be seen. But what was seen was the majority who took part in Bersih 3.0 were Malays, and they abhorred the action taken by the police. As if Mamakthir did not realize that it was the police which launch the violence and how can people expect the police to stop such action?

  7. #7 by Loh on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 5:07 pm

    ///But Mahathir dismissed the possibility of Malaysians rising up, noting they enjoy more freedoms and are far more well-off than the Arab masses.///–Mamakthir

    Mamakthir believed that since the majority in the country are given institutionalized unfair advantage over the minority, and they have been pampered from cradle to grave, they are too weak to rise up. The minority has long given up and those who managed have left. So, Malaysians will only go through the motion to vote, and that is why election cannot be Bersih. Else UMNOputras might go to jail. That is why Mamakthir wrote “His Fear”.

    We have since learnt that Malays too can be jealous of other Malays who became rich without putting in commensurate efforts. That applies particularly to constitutional Malays. They have the right sentiment that to feel proud, those who achieve ‘greatness’ must be of their kind. Mamakputras are not Malays.

  8. #8 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 5:17 pm

    The line ‘firm but fair’ merely testament of a declining productive and failing uncompetitive govt. Any product or service including that of a govt delivering their services that require more force, more uncompetitive behaviour, merely just says the product and services are decreasing in value and usefulness. Malaysian that buy this tag line then they are merely accepting their undeserving of constantly better govt, better prospect and better future.

    Mahathir simply don’t get it – liberalisation is demanded and needed is because the UMNO/BN govt was failing not failing because of liberalisation..

  9. #9 by homeblogger on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 5:47 pm

    Quote : “We need a government that is firm. It should be fair. It should be firm,”

    Yes, that’s why BN should be kicked out. Should have been kicked out loooooong ago. It is an unfair government that is hard on the rakyat but soft on UMNO criminals.

  10. #10 by boh-liao on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 6:08 pm

    What MMK meant: Hey, ahCHEATkor, take some viagra lah n b firm, turgid, tumescent
    PPP president also talked big now, urbanites tin kosong, making noise only lah
    He now veri confident himself a winnable candidate in Taiping

  11. #11 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 7:26 pm

    Whole problem is Tun Dr Mahathir (TDM) regards himself somewhat a political genius, comparing with whom, his successors are political novice/bungler : that’s why under Pak Lah BN lost 2/3, and under Najib may even lose Putrajaya, a prospect that TDM does not relish, so he proffers his unsolicited advice on when to have GE 13 and when to be reformist, and when firm! Well to give him some credit, there was some ‘genius’ or else how could he be the 2nd longest serving leader of 22 yrs in the world over a hybrid semi democracy run by a viper’s pit of factional leaders after Fidel Castro running easier a completely totalitarian communist state? TDM ran affairs in different time zone from Ah Jib Gor! And they are different personalities. No doubt TDM was Machiavellian in manipulation: he knew when to be firm draconian and when to relax grip. One can’t learn that from text book and some on else’s tips and advice – this response to play of threats and opportunities and how to exploit the latter. It is however presumptuous to keep on telling the PM what and how to do, and the more he does it, the more he confuses the latter, which is good for Opposition’s cause, exactly what TDM wants to neutralize!

  12. #12 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 7:42 pm

    Like anyone else, TDM draws on past experience. Successful methods of past are no guarantee that they would work today. Then one could use firm action of Operation Lallang to neutralize Ku Li’s threat. Today there are various changes/differences that TDM drawing on past success of “firmness” and iron fist may not work, ie:-
    1. then he was managing intra party UMNo factionalism and threats from No. 2 rivals such as Musa, Ku Li and later Anwar. Today Ah Jib Gor has not only to manage the same intra party factionalism & challenges to his personal leadership but a real threat from a resurgent opposition that has deprived BN 2/3 and took over the richest of states…
    2. Voters in next GE – high proportion of youngsters who don’t like past draconian approach. They prefer Najib’s social media interactive/blog/twitter/concerts approach!
    3. Then under TDM the patronage system upon which BN thrived was not exposed as it is today – a system synonymous with corruption;
    4. Then TDM could leverage on legitimacy of BN (inclusive of all component parties) versus Barisan Alternatif/ DAP etc Today non Malays so desert their traditional parties that its UMNO (Malay Nationalism/Ketuanan) versus the Opposition claiming legitimacy of inclusiveness.
    5. Then under TDM BN always had 2/3 and most states; today confidence is shaken.
    So it’s a bit presumptuous for TDM to advise present PM of what worked for him then as if it work for Ah Jib Gor under present changed conditions!

  13. #13 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 7:56 pm

    Of course the biggest difference then and now is that THEN when TDM was running affairs he didn’t have another TDM clone to harangue, cajole, threaten, arbiter influence and power with rivals vis-a-vis himself as what Najib Tun Razak has to face today. It is better once one leaves office to let go and let whoever who carries the baton thereafter to run his own style. However the problem here is – and this is Karma- when TDM structured the patronage system the way he did only a guy like him could hold it together and somewhat other than him coming after cannot do so, so things will unravel and fall apart and that’s where the grand old octogenarian panicks and start interfering and proferring tips, and playing power broker…Ever its true that when you’re an Oak tree especially one growing full bloom in a gnarled and twisted way how do you expect others under its foliage/leaves to grow strong in replacement to provide shade for cronies descendants and hangers on? One only gets clinging vines with their tendrils and parasitic bush – because no seed can germinate to grow into another strong oak when it was under the shade of a big oak tree! He eliminated any rival evincing promise of capability when he was in power the moment they couldn’t rein in their ambition to wait…

  14. #14 by Winston on Sunday, 17 June 2012 - 8:52 pm

    It’s not up to the PM to be firm.
    Malaysians are making him very infirm.
    The big fall will come with GE13.

  15. #15 by bumiborn on Monday, 18 June 2012 - 1:44 am

    “… Today people are accusing each other of being racist,” said Mahathir” Really? Rakyat don’t accuse each other racist, evidently by Bersih 3.0!!! They are united, non-gender, non-racial. It’s the New UMNO (as opposed to original UMNO by beloved Tunku) government that’s doing it! Ironically, Mahathir admitted himself a racist with no qualms publicly. It actually sounded like he felt very proud of it. I think the more he speaks, the more I lost my respect for him who used to be my hero of sort.

  16. #16 by sheriff singh on Monday, 18 June 2012 - 4:40 am

    With so many problems and issues troubling him you expect Najib to get firm and ‘erect’? I expect him to be drooping and dangly.

  17. #17 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Monday, 18 June 2012 - 8:30 am

    Of course he has forgotten. You see, he forgets easily. WTF. Let me recount it anyway. He should have stood firm and not step down for sleepyhead to take over, then. In that case, I am sure UBAH would have take place.

  18. #18 by Loh on Monday, 18 June 2012 - 9:57 am

    ///AB Sulaiman: When Mahathir retired in 2003, he claimed that his inability to change the Malays had been one of his great failures as prime minister.

    Now he is saying that the Malays should not be goaded to change, fearing that changing and liberalising them might lead the country to ethnic unrest.

    He infers that if they want to continue with their comfortable slumber on the bed of conservatism, just let them. This about-turn by Mahathir is absolutely amazing – the mother of all flip-flops.

    The fact of the matter is that the Malays have in fact changed and today they are more aware of his dubiousness. This might well be the reason why he wants them to revert to their former ignorant days.///–Malaysiakini

    Well said. Mamakthir wants his status of Mamakputra to continue from strength to strength. He is really worried that when Malays realize the truth, he will have to answer for his sins. It takes forever for Malays to realize that Mamakthir is actually a Kakak who made use of the constitution to transform himself into a person placed in the special position needing assistance, and he utilized that position to divide the people, and rule. To protect himself from answering to his sins, he needs his son to assume position of power.

    Lim Liong Sik said Mamakthir was the greatest gift of God to Malaysia. LLL got the source of gift wrong; it cam from Satan.

  19. #19 by Taxidriver on Monday, 18 June 2012 - 11:28 am

    The old man is satan incarnated. His “firm” means UMNO B / BN must win the GE by hook or by crook, even to the extent of crushed bones and dead bodies. He did it once in 1969 and he thinks this method will work again, forgetting that Malaysians are more matured and will not be fooled again by UMNO B’s incompetent, greedy and self-serving leaders. Race and religion are merely tools to ensure the remain in power to protect themselves and to amass more wealth to last their families 10 generations. Malaysians need to be wary of this man who is from Kerala.

  20. #20 by on cheng on Monday, 18 June 2012 - 7:09 pm

    The old man had lost his sense, in a democracy, it should be that the people should be firm with the govt n politician, if they act n talk nonsense, KICK them out soonest!!

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