Jan 13, 2014
The rivalry between former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and current PM Najib Abdul Razak has assumed ludicrous proportions. With a legacy to protect, a son to manoeuvre into position, his cronies to look after, and a country to run, Mahathir is in overdrive. He may be approaching 90, but he retains much of his vigour to annoy.
Yesterday, a former minister, Zainuddin Maidin, urged Mahathir to return to Putrajaya. Having Mahathir back in Putrajaya would be as bad as having a hole in the head.
Much to Najib’s annoyance, Mahathir refuses to shut up, but Najib has only himself to blame. Najib is busy clocking-up air-miles in his new jets. Mahathir says in one sitting, what Najib mumbles in one month.
The current ‘Allah’ side-show is meant to trick ignorant Malays, and weak-willed Muslims, into believing that Umno Baru is the only party that will protect their race and religion.
The real issue is the economy of Malaysia. Umno Baru, Najib and Mahathir are trying to mask this fact behind the ‘Allah’ charade. The rakyat is being out-manoeuvred by Umno Baru.
Last August, Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew launched his book, ‘One Man’s View of the World’, in which he described Malaysia as an underperforming nation disadvantaged by its pro-Malay economic policies.
… but he knew whom to blame
That slur rankled Mahathir, but he knew whom to blame. So, he sat, he observed and he plotted. By the end of 2013, with disastrous GE13 results and the shock defeat of his son in the Umno Baru internal elections, Mahathir was furious.
By the year’s end, the Malaysian economy was deteriorating fast and Mahathir knew he had to take control, again. Mahathir is in his own estimation, a dictator who loves to micro-manage.
Lee and Mahathir could well have been born twins, with one being given up for adoption, soon after birth. Their mutual dislike is probably because they are so similar.
One similarity is their liberal use of draconian laws like the Internal Security Act (ISA) to silence their critics. The reaction of the authorities, in the aftermath of the riots by foreign workers in Singapore, was not to improve living and social conditions, but to increase the restrictions on these workers.
With the Malaysian rakyat protesting against price increases and a rise in cost of living, Mahathir’s prompt was to say that the ISA should be re-introduced. Both are quick to accuse pro-communist elements for causing trouble.
Both Lee and Mahathir will do anything to increase their support base. Chinese workers from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are encouraged to work in Singapore, to increase the Chinese stock of Singaporeans, to the detriment of the Singaporeans who loathe the Chinese from the PRC, whom they consider loud and uncouth, and with whom they have little in common.
Mahathir imported hordes of Filipinos and Indonesians, of Muslim stock, to replenish his party’s declining support among the Muslim population.
Only the naïve would say there is no corruption in Singapore. Lee encouraged meritocracy and competition but he was prepared to punish severely those involved in corruption. His core group of advisers are mainly economists whereas Mahathir surrounds himself with businessmen.
Fiercely protective of his cronies
Lee has successfully installed his son as prime minister of Singapore, but Mahathir’s son is still “king in the kampung”. Lee built a thriving nation from an island with few natural resources, whereas Mahathir has wasted the potential of a large country that has a cornucopia of highly valuable commodities.
Mahathir is allegedly known as the Father of Cronyism, Corruption and Nepotism (FoCCaN). FoCCaN Mahathir does not favour competition but prefers to blame others. To his credit, he is fiercely protective of his cronies, and goes out of his way to assist them, unlike Najib, who is not loyal to his cronies, once their usefulness is finished.
With the economy in decline, an increasing national debt and a noticeably absent and silent PM, observers may have noticed the intensity of the attacks which Mahathir has launched against Najib recently.
Time is running out for Mahathir and with 2020 approaching fast, our nation is far from developed. Mahathir said Malaysia needed investment in high-tech industries, as higher qualified Malaysians could work in these fields. He said that there were many well-qualified Malaysians, but each vacancy in the government would attract over a thousand applications.
People are attracted to jobs in the civil service because they are “jobs for life”. People in the private sector claim that many Malaysian graduates have poor language skills and a bad attitude to work.
Mahathir should hear what the various government agencies tell Malaysian students overseas, trying to entice them to return. If anecdotal evidence is to be believed, Malays are allegedly told that there is discrimination in the private sector and that Malay students should return to set up businesses, to increase Malay participation in private enterprise.
The truth is probably that there are no real jobs in the government service for these government scholars.
When he was in power, Mahathir had a problem with all his deputies, whom he failed to nurture to lead the country. Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s Achilles heel was his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin. Mahathir thought he could depend on Najib, but he did not take into account the ambitious Rosmah Mansor, who has probably surrounded Najib with her choice of advisers.
Mahathir blames Najib for wasting money on skyscrapers, ignoring that he was once responsible for wasteful mega-projects. Mahathir said, “For Malaysia to become a developed nation, we need to diversify. The shiny new buildings and skyscrapers do not mean Malaysia is a developed nation….”
So now, we come to the crux of the matter – Mahathir’s ego. With the Warisan Merdeka tower project under way, Mahathir does not want his 88-storey Twin Towers to be dwarfed by Najib’s symbolic 118-storey Warisan Merdeka.
Mahathir says that shiny skyscrapers are wasteful. Najib should take heed. Save money and just rename the Petronas Twin Towers the Tun Razak Towers.
MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO).