Mahathir’s Continuing Burden Upon The Nation

M. Bakri Musa

Mahathir is the only prime minister who devalued the ringgit, the very symbol of the nation’s sovereignty. If that were to be his only negative legacy, Malaysia could easily bear it.

Unfortunately the man has burdened (and continues to burden) Malaysia with many more ugly legacies. He has also devalued our culture and institutions. Most of all he has devalued the trust we have in each other, a vital but scarce asset in a plural society.

On a much lesser scale, and to serve more as a concrete example, the upcoming UMNO leadership convention will be another. With its “no contest” rule now the norm, the convention mocks the very meaning of a leadership election, reducing it to the same level as the old Soviet “elections.” This coming event will again expose the party’s corruptness and how pathetically bereft it is of talent. The same old tired and tainted candidates will be recycled. It is an exercise less of renewal and rejuvenation, more of an old and leaking sewer treatment plant, with nothing to hide the stench.

As for the candidates, they would be like desperate monkeys elbowing and clawing each other for the top branches, their howling effectively drowning out the sound of the tree crashing down.

Legally speaking, this party is of course not the original UMNO, rather “UMNO Baru,” Mahathir’s own creation after he maneuvered a less-than-honest squeaky victory over his challenger, Tengku Razaleigh, back in 1987. The party was subsequently deregistered. UMNO Baru is but a pretender to that glorious old party, the spirit of 1946, the one that bravely fought against the Malayan Union and ultimately brought the country to independence. No surprise then that this UMNO Baru has all of Mahathir’s ugly trademarks.

I am privileged not to have met the man; thus my analysis is strictly based on his policies and performances as a leader. It is not colored by personal feelings or show of gratitude. I am spared the “mudah lupa” (ingrate) epithet.

Again thanks to Mahathir, this mudah lupa is a special burden in our culture where one’s personal kindness and familiarity could hide and indeed excuse many a sin. Mahathir himself is not spared this burden; hence his being easily hoodwinked by the put-on piety and humility of his chosen successor, Abdullah Badawi. Even Mahathir’s subsequent enthusiasm for Najib to replace Abdullah was based less on Najib’s talent, more an expression of Mahathir’s gratitude to Najib’s late father for having “rehabilitated” Mahathir into UMNO.

Yes, Mahathir was once kicked out of that grand old party back in 1970 in the aftermath of the deadly 1969 race riots. Those early leaders of the original UMNO were wise and prescient.

Rehabilitated he was, and with his subsequent ascent to the top post, the country now bears the burden of his follies. We will continue to do so long after he is gone, such was the damage he inflicted upon the country.

The currency devaluation was painful enough, especially to the poor. We still bear it today. Judging by past performances, this upcoming leadership contest would again assault our sensibilities, especially of Malay culture. Forget about our budi bahasa (gracious) and halus (soft) ways.

Those previously found guilty of “money politics” (that’s corruption, to the rest of us) like Isa Samad and Khairy Jamaludin would again be elected to top positions. So too would former Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo, except that he is now serving time for corruption. Incidentally Khir Toyo is regarded as “clean” by his fellow UMNO members. As for Isa and Khairy, the former is now put in charge of the multi-billion ringgit FELDA, the latter, a cabinet minister. That too, is part of Mahathir’s legacy.

One might quibble about Khairy for he once bragged about being Mahathir’s vocal critic. However, Mahathir’s legacy is the overall negative culture he fostered in UMNO Baru. In any other culture or jurisdiction, that young man would not even be nominated for dog catcher. That speaks volumes to the degradation of UMNO Baru.

That is Mahathir’s legacy, its destructiveness is pervasive and permanent precisely because it is less obvious.

Mahathir’s scathing and relentless criticism of his successor, Abdullah Badawi, cannot hide the obvious fact that he (Mahathir) was responsible for the mess. He appointed Abdullah. Similarly, Mahathir was highly instrumental in Najib replacing Abdullah. Mahathir’s excuse of there being no one else is just that – an excuse. Two successive dud appointments to the highest office of the land, another of Mahathir’s ugly legacies!

Mahathir never tires of reminding us about Petronas Twin Towers, the gleaming highways, and the KLIA, all built during his administration. He also used to brag about Putrajaya, the multibillion-dollar new capital city. Not anymore. Yes, Putrajaya sports some futuristic bridges but it must be the only capital in the world that does not have any foreign embassies. As for those bridges, they must be the only ones to be erected where first they had to dig a lake so they could be water underneath those bridges!

It is pathetic that after having served as the nation’s longest serving chief executive, Mahathir could point only to those physical monuments as his legacy. We have to constantly remind ourselves that the deterioration of our institutions (especially our schools and universities), the pervasiveness of corruption, the soiling of our culture (especially Malay culture), and the erosion of the trust we have in each other are very core of his legacy.

It took the Soviets generations to free themselves of the grip of Stalin’s ghost. It took the Chinese decades to recognize and then overcome Mao’s malignant feng shui. How long will Malaysians, Malays specifically, take to escape the hantu of Mahathirism? Will we ever?

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 2:33 pm

    He is not just a burden. He is CANCER. We just don’t know how bad that cancer is but we know it will kill us eventually. We already gone beyond simple hate politics, we long ago crossed the politics into the territory of repressed potential violence by the hate groups.. Its a matter of just when one of them will turn violent. To avert that, to even just keep this country together in the inevitable event, Mahathir has to be brought into full accounting NOW – before we can’t..

    You let Mahathir get away without accounting and you guaranetee some sort of violence in the future. There simply too many of his over-dependent and over entitled perversion running around to keep track or and prevent one or more of them from doing the INSANE.

    The time is reform CANNOT BE ‘A LONG TIME’. IT MUST BE NOW or at least very soon. Even just the TPPA for example, we should not join but THAT is the problem..If we join TPPA we lose, we don’t lose TPPA we also lose AND MAHATHIR IS RESPONSIBLE for it and his kind continue to be the problem. How do you do right? – it has to start with Mahathir and his kind..

    Like it or not, Mahathir successfully put a buffer between us and him to continue his diabolical malicious schemings after he resigned. The point is, we not only a right to make him answer, WE HAVE TO..

  2. #2 by mickeytiger2006 on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 3:56 pm

    This mamak is not only burden to the whole Msia but to the whole world because he talks nonsense, a absolute racialist with extreme discriminating views, utterly/totally corrupted, complete misuse of power during his 22 yrs as PM, terrible misuse ISA laws to detain complete innocent people, practice complete/total nepotism, croniynism , a comfirmed religious fanatic like saying Msia is a islamic country like Arabia, Iran and Iraq where sucide bombers are everywhere!!!! And this evil list will goes on until he kicks the bucket!!!! Msia boleh!!!!!

  3. #3 by DAP man on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 4:22 pm

    It was an Indian who devalued Malay culture and ruined the country. He is a Nero reborn.

  4. #4 by good coolie on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 4:49 pm

    I am secretly proud that an Indian could be PM of Malaysia. That shows, too, that Malaysia is truly cosmopolitan. My friends, do be careful not to erase that entry in the University records that list the good doctor as “Indian”. That’s the only proof I have of Dr. M’s ethnicity.

    But as for his building of buildings and his bridging of highways, he could have built pyramids for all I care! He reminds me of the cock that said that the sun rose only because it had crowed. To me Dr. M is a person who presided over division between the races and destroyed the hallowed institution of the Judiciary.

  5. #5 by john on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 5:35 pm

    One Mamak simply wanted this Nation to sink further ( the better if choas and ruin ) so that, with that ALL the LOOT ( huge ! ) could be completely wipe clean of records and traces.
    One Mamak always has a hidden agenda ! All the rest is just plain TOKOK and DIVERSION !

  6. #6 by undertaker888 on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 5:49 pm

    This hantu mamak needs to be exorcised.

  7. #7 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 6:35 pm

    Good coolie: “He reminds me of the cock that said that the sun rose only because it had crowed.”

    Here is one cocky Mahathir. When comes another?

  8. #8 by sheriff singh on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 7:51 pm

    Some writers have said Mahathir cost the government and country up to RM 1 TRILLION in losses not counting Nor Mohd’s speculations and the Perwaja thingy I think.

    And of course who can forget his Capital Controls and the RM 300 million that some crony allegedly made from freeing up Malaysian shares held by foreigners especially Singaporeans?

  9. #9 by on cheng on Monday, 26 August 2013 - 9:52 pm

    He will say Myanmar Nay Pyi Daw also had no foreign embassy, so never mind loh! at least we are not alone n better than Myanmar lah !

  10. #10 by lee tai king (previously dagen) on Tuesday, 27 August 2013 - 9:23 am

    ///Unfortunately the man has burdened (and continues to burden) Malaysia with many more ugly legacies. He has also devalued our culture and institutions.///

    And and one more.

    He also devalued the esteemed worth of the citizenship of an independant nation (malaysia) by giving out citizenship to unqualified, lowly skilled and uneducated and illegal migrants by the hundreds of thousand and for a corrupt and illegal purpose – to shore up his political support.

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