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Too late to play innocent, Dr M

 | November 11, 2014

Mahathir Mohamad’s recent misgivings on deforestation cannot be taken at face value.

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mahathir 300If there’s one thing former premier Mahathir Mohamad does with a certain degree of nonchalance it is dropping the most mind-numbingly inane yet cutting statements, hoping the general public will lap it up like a hungry kitten would a saucer of milk.

Like saying all Malays are lazy and hopeless at managing their finances. Like saying Ibrahim Ali wanted to burn Christian bibles out of a deep respect for the holy books. Like calling the Jews worse than Nazis for the atrocities in Palestine. Like exclaiming with doe-eyed innocence, as he does in his latest blog entry, that illegal clearing of forests must be stopped at all costs, together with the “corruption that goes with it”.

Only the downright gullible would take his cynicism for caring advice or his dull textbook lecture on the root causes of landslides for a genuine effort to educate the public and greedy politicians on why our rainforests should stay put and not be felled for development whether for logging or setting up of agricultural farms.

For just who does the good doctor think he’s fooling?

For wasn’t it during his reign that the Bakun Dam in Sarawak was proposed despite the immense area of rainforest that would be systematically destroyed and the 10,000 people displaced from the jungles they called home?

And was it not Mahathir himself who wrote to anti-logging activist Bruno Manser accusing him of being a trouble maker and telling him it was “about time that you stop your arrogance and your intolerable European superiority. You are no better than the Penan.”

Mahathir also led the pack when in 1990, during a meeting of European and Asian leaders, he said it was well and good that western civilisation continued to fell their own forests yet applied pressure on Malaysia for felling hers.

He even defended deforestation saying its was crucial to keep the economy chugging along at a healthy pace and employment robust although, caught up as he was in his maddening dash to develop the country at all costs, he never once mentioned the hundreds of thousands of natives who would be displaced, or the hundreds of thousands of wildlife who would end up dead or poisoned because they had become an interference in the grand scheme of things.

In fact the Malaysian Timber Industry Development Board (MTIB) and the Sarawak Timber Industry Development Cooperation (STIDC) spent RM5 to 10 million to produce a report to counter allegations by foreign activists who condemned indiscriminate logging in Malaysia.

Not to be spared was a 10-year-old British schoolboy, Darrel Abercrombie, who back in 1987 when Mahathir was salivating at the prospect of the bountiful riches our rainforests would yield, wrote to the good doctor lamenting the systematic destruction of our rainforests for timber and palm-oil cultivation.

Having had just about enough of foreign meddling, even if only from a small boy, Mahathir shot back, “They should expel all the people living in the British countryside and allow secondary forests to grow and fill these new forests with wolves and bears etc., before studying tropical angles.”

Sigh. How quick to resort to crazy rantings in order to have his way, and how quick to state just the opposite when indiscriminate land clearing takes place under someone else’s watch.

Just as prime minister Najib Razak had better pull up his socks, the doctor himself has been forgiven for trading his brashness for an endearing grandfatherly-like concern for Malaysia and her apparent descent down the tubes.

Stop clearing our rainforests, he calls out, but alas, “greed has overcome us and we are clearing too much of our forests too quickly,” he laments just like the little boy he scolded years before.

Taking on the tone of the righteous, Mathathir says, “Do we really need to make money from logging? Do we need to give out concessions for this? The people who get the concessions are not really poor. They should make more money than they already have some other way.”

So yes, my jaw has dropped but knowing Mahathir as well as other Malaysians do, this statement is not an indication of growing mellow but a calculated move to dig the dagger in deeper and give it a good hard twist.


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