Blaming Dr M’s faults on everyone else

— Pak Sako
The Malaysian Insider
Aug 16, 2012

AUG 16 — Erna Mahyuni’s opinion piece in The Malaysian Insider entitled “Why Dr M is Umno’s (and Anwar’s) fault” is almost faultless in its humour.

For readers who did not “get” it, I clarify below its satire. I number the relevant paragraphs from the article for easy cross-reference.

This commentator is of the belief that good humour should not go unnoticed or, worse, be mistaken for serious writing.

Joke No. 1: It’s all just “missteps”

Responding to a question about whether former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad should be condemned “for all he’s done”, the author asserts that Mahathir did not deserve to be vilified in spite of all of his “missteps” (paragraph 3).

“Missteps” should receive no vilification, so long as the person “really did believe his decisions were for the greater good” (paragraph 6).

Here are a couple of those missteps that Mahathir and his administration should never be vilified for:

• the missteps that might have been involved in the loss of roughly RM100 billion in four financial scandals that occurred during his tenure (see Barry Wain, Malaysian Maverick);

• the misstep of instructing journalists to deny the then-outgoing prime minister Hussein Onn media coverage (as alleged by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in an NTV7 interview, available on YouTube as “Pak Lah balas serangan Tun Dr Mahathir”);

• the role in the Operasi Lalang misstep in 1987 (see Lim Kit Siang, “Mahathir rewriting history on Ops Lalang”,, 9 Feb 2011);

• the missteps in the 1988 judicial crisis (see pages 140-142 in Shimon Shetreet et al’s The Culture of Judicial Independence);

• missteps in the 1998 bailout of Konsortium Perkapalan Berhad, a corporation owned by Mirzan Mahathir (page 170 in S. Haggard’s book, The Political Economy of the Asian Financial Crisis).

John D. Rockefeller had once said: “Don’t blame the marketing department. The buck stops with the chief executive’’. Rockefeller was obviously wrong.

Joke No. 2: Blame everyone else but the culprit

The title of the author’s article, “Why Dr M is Umno’s (and Anwar’s) fault”, conveys the impression that all Mahathirian phenomena are explainable by Umno and Anwar Ibrahim. Or “circumstances”, as when “Umno” and “Anwar” are conflated into one word (paragraph 6).

The absurd implication is that it is Umno and Anwar Ibrahim who ought to accept responsibility for Dr Mahathir’s actions and possible character and personality flaws. A portent of a legal mess.

Or that it was Umno and Anwar Ibrahim who had sought out Dr Mahathir to begin with, and not the other way around. Here’s one for surrealism.

The author goes the extra mile in the final paragraph: we “should not condemn Dr Mahathir because in many ways, he reflects all the worst in ourselves”.

In other words, we are not shaped by an administration’s socioeconomic policies and the period’s political-party culture; we, the people, asked for these— money politics, mass privatisations, the nurturing of a corporate-capitalist elite, and so on.

Joke No. 3: Make a bad thing sound good with goofy hyperboles

Dr Mahathir, the “über-controlling, extremely paranoid individual we know” (paragraph 5).

Here the impression is had of the friendly (though admittedly strange) next-door neighbour who kindly offers the occasional home-made pie.

Being brief about it would have certainly aided readability, like editing the said clause down to “authoritarian prime minister” or (for über-brevity) “autocrat”. But that would defeat the purpose— the joke would be defused and all we’d be left with is feeling scared.

Joke No. 4: Worship. And madly

“Dr Mahathir is probably the greatest politician our country ever had or will ever produce” (paragraph 15).

The impact of the author’s joke relies on the word “greatest” being left undefined. No evidence is given to support the claim, except perhaps sheer captivation. Or perhaps it refers to the suggestion that no other Malaysian prime minister can lay claim to as many “missteps”.

But no matter. Another comic kick swiftly follows: The absolute degree of confidence that Malaysia will probably never have a great prime minister ever again. Which is more a reason to be depressed than to be merry (bear run on the stock market, ad perpetuum).

Joke No. 5: The comical contradiction

“Malaysia needs statesmen, not politicians… Not Anwar… Not court jesters like Perkasa” (paragraph 15).

Here a contradictory self-reference is invoked to elicit the laughter of disbelief. For observe that if we eliminate court jesters like Perkasa, who then shall entertain the patron saint of Perkasa?

Joke No. 6: Hilarity by resort to honesty

Politicians may play complex roles and be expected to manoeuvre in complex environments, but that is hardly excuse for binning ethics or playing games with the public trust.

To sum up, therefore, with the author’s words: “Malaysia needs… leaders with vision, compassion and a sense of honour. Sadly, those traits do not seem to manifest in Malaysian politicians” (paragraph 15).

Indeed, and so much for the greatest politician our country will ever produce.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Friday, 17 August 2012 - 5:02 am

    Mahathir copied 150 year old British rule….to divide and rule …thus encouraged race politics.
    He said “Money is Power” and stole billions to do as he liked. He openly stole RM1.2 billion EPF money to save his son.
    Come to politics….Mahathir is the best of the dirtiest.
    His 22 years as PM have been nothing but lying..twisting ..showman…con man.
    He is the biggest sinner towards his own race…guiding all to be corrupted and be greedy for money.
    He was a Dictator.
    What does one needs to talk about dictatorship rule that is good for the country?
    Mahathir love idiots and racists.

  2. #2 by Jeffrey on Friday, 17 August 2012 - 6:33 am

    I find Erna Mahyuni’s piece more self-contradictory than humorous. She says Malaysians reflect the shortcomings of our politicians as do they reflect us in “ends justify the means”, ends meaning – “we shortchange, empower corruption (boleh settle, boss?), top Asian rankings of laziest workers… because we have come to believe that it’s fine to only care about our own and do whatever it takes to protect our own interests. So long as my family/race/religion/business comes out on top, to heck with everyone else.”

    Yet she says although “Dr Mahathir’s greatest flaw is his unwavering belief that the end justifies the means”, “it all starts with the best of intentions and I think our former prime minister really did believe his decisions were for the greater good.” I must say that this is a controversial assessment on Erna’s part. “Good intentions” at start??? Good intentions are not consistent with “So long as my family/race/religion/business comes out on top, to heck with everyone else”!

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Friday, 17 August 2012 - 7:53 am

    Mahathir is not regarded as a statesman internationally but Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew is.

  4. #4 by dagen wanna "ABU" on Friday, 17 August 2012 - 8:09 am

    A kutty who forgets that he is in fact a kutty.

  5. #5 by Bigjoe on Friday, 17 August 2012 - 9:48 am

    Erna Mahyuni basis of blaming Dr. M’s fault on UMNO and ourselves is basically a blame of not being cynical enough against our leaders and the foresight of future to anticipate its abuse by our leaders.

    If we are too be blame, we are to be blame for being generous to our leaders, for having too much faith in our leaders and while the general population have some guilt of immaturity, for us to be blame for not being cautious enough and cynical enough, then I say we are still to be blamed for now over self-loathing rather than holding our leaders accountable.

    Is it wrong to have faith in good leaders, is it wrong to encourage good leaders? If we cynically assume that EVERYONE is an abusive leaders then, we already have an unworkable system, an unlivable system. THEY the over-cyncial leaders have won and we the citizens have lost.

    I am all for ever dilligence against the over-cynics like Mahathir but I believe the very best and very good and able given the best tools and means rather than being hamstrung can achieve remarkable and the truly desire of our society.

    We were imperfect and still is but the cynical of Mahathirs are to be held accountable in other ways rather than to deprive us of the better people still deserve.

  6. #6 by omeqiu on Friday, 17 August 2012 - 9:49 am

    Pak Sako, a good article. How many people will understand your aim? Please go to the ground and tell the people what Dr. Mahathir did which is still bad for the country. The number of people (voters that matters) with computers is still insignificant small. But I still salute you for your effort.

  7. #7 by Loh on Friday, 17 August 2012 - 3:43 pm

    ///AUG 16 — Erna Mahyuni’s opinion piece in The Malaysian Insider entitled “Why Dr M is Umno’s (and Anwar’s) fault” is almost faultless in its humour.///–the author

    If the author meant it to be a joke, I did not get it. Perhaps she should have said it was Mamakthir’s grandfather’s fault for coming to Penang, or Malaysians are simply at fault because they were unlucky that a despicable person could not be stopped from taking power. Most probably UMNO was at fault for accepting non-true-Malay to be member, and worse to lead them with the prime objective of preserving Malays’ dignity. With Mamakthir accepted as Malay, the character of Malay race has changed. Now foreigners who are Muslims and if they declare that they accept one another as Malay or indigenous, never mind what true Malays think since they have no power on the matter anyway, they are Malays, because Mamakthir said so. Where is the Malay race?

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