The former premier and the current premier's wife both have a penchant for attention, and so they say what they want anywhere, anytime.
For one, both Mahathir and Rosmah have a penchant for attention. While Mahathir post-retirement from politics decided to switch roles to be a self-appointed spokesperson of the rakyat, Rosmah meanwhile is nonchalant as to how, when and where she should rightfully put her thoughts across. In short, both take it for granted that they can talk about anything, anywhere and anytime by virtue of their background.
Having had his way with the country during the 22 years he reigned as prime minister, Mahathir declines to fade away from the public sphere. He has devised ways to ensure his existence remains relevant. This he has done through the creation of a blog, writing under the nom de plume Che Det and churning out his thoughts on whatever catches his fancy.
Through his blog Mahathir, knowingly tries very hard to give the impression of empathising with the people’s woes. But when push comes to shove, Mahathir does what he knows best – scoot, dumping all blame on his detractors.
As for Rosmah, she finds it imperative to interfere in the running of the nation, often times stepping on the toes of the various government agencies. She takes great pain to remind the rakyat that she is the First Lady of Malaysia (FLOM) and never fails to seize any opportunity available to make remarks which however command a respect which is next to nothing. This FLOM’s words have never been successful in touching the hearts of the people.
The high flown Rosmah made no bones when while at a function she grabbed the chance to send a congratulatory message to her husband for Barisan Nasional’s victory in the recent by-elections in Kerdau, Pahang and Merlimau, Malacca. Was there a need for her to get personal and send a congrats message to hubby dearest, that too publicly?
While Rosmah has dismissed wagging tongues that insist it is she and not Najib who wears the pants i.e. who calls the shots, Rosmah finds it difficult to resist interferring in the country’s administrative matters. Under the fallacy that she knows best, Rosmah trespassed the responsibilities of the Tourism Ministry when last year she took the liberty of extending an invitation to Hollywood heavyweight actor Robert de Niro to come experience life in Malaysia and help dispel any negative views of Malaysia fellow Americans back home might have.
One can only speculate whose pockets Rosmah dug into to host de Niro’s weekend stay in Malaysia. The question here is, was it necessary for her to do so?
Dr M superficial, Rosmah artificial
Life has not been any less interesting for Mahathir after leaving active politics. He recently came out with his memoir “A Doctor in the House”, which cost him eight years in the making. The book typically portrays Mahathir for what he is, a homo sapien with an ego the size of a hot air balloon and a man who can never stomach the truth. What is worse is that he is never short of ideas in finding scapegoats for all his wrongdoings.
While his memoir makes for interesting read, it however does nothing to elevate the people’s respect for him. But then did Mahathir ever care about what the rakyat think of him?
Assigning blame on Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, the police and the opposition for all the wrong that happened is so Mahathir. There is always a guilty party that this doctor-politician-blogger- author is quick to point his finger at. In short, as far as Mahathir is concerned, he is faultless.
Along the same vein, Rosmah too has never felt it was out of place to glorify herself as the FLOM. She took this title so seriously that Rosmah is said to have “generously” lavished RM24 million on a three-day First Ladies Summit held last year. To prove her “commitment” as the First Lady, Rosmah was only too happy to relinquish her five-year-old post as chancellor of Universiti Industry Selangor (Unisel) in February this year, citing the need to focus on her pet project Permata, a programme which focusses on early childhood education for gifted children under the age of five. And not forgetting too the biennial First Ladies Summit which remains a priority with Rosmah, who has confirmed that 2012 will see Malaysia hosting the summit for a second time.
Thus far, Rosmah has yet to adopt the pen and turn author like Mahathir but still, it will however come as no surprise should she someday announce the launch of her autobiography. After all, the call of narcissim does bring with it certain demands.
Learn to respect others
There is no agenda in coming to the conclusion that both Mahathir and Rosmah have yet to earn the people’s respect and unless both learn to kiss the dust, the rakyat’s admiration for them will remain elusive. Unlike Mahathir who feigns “selective amnesia” in refusing accountability over his actions, the people of this country clearly remember his judgemental attitude in condemning others.
While Mahathir is an overt homophobic, he regrettably is not ashamed of disrespecting the fundamental rights of an individual. It was he who during his tenure as prime minister barred foreign leaders from being accompanied by their gay partners to Malaysia.
It was also the very same Mahathir who castigated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights saying it was of no use, declaring it an oppressive instrument used by the United States and other countries to impose their values on Asian nations. His excuse for denying the people their fundamental rights was that Asians needed stability and economic growth, not civil liberties
And it was Mahathir who yet again displayed his lack of courage when he dumped all blame on the Oct 27, 1987, Operasi Lalang incident on the police, feigning ignorance and accusing the Opposition of lying and smearing his good name.
And yes, who can forget Mahathir’s effrontery in condemning his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as being a stupid leader. Suffice to say that the list of Mahathir’s machinations is miles long. Yet, Mahathir believes he is beyond fault and continues living engulfed in the shadow of his own myth that he always had and has the interest of Malaysians and the nation at heart.
For now, Mahathir remains arrogant, hardly perturbed that he is a racist at heart. In February this year he very casually issued a caveat to the non-Malays to behave themselves as this country is owned by the Malays, all because this nation was once called Tanah Melayu. He is all for the Malay supremacy or Ketuanan Melayu and believes the New Economic Policy is what the Malays need to succeed in life.
Rosmah, meanwhile as patron of the Malaysian Aids Council, is said to be a tad uncomfortable when shaking hands with people living with HIV/Aids. That itself is an indication of what counts and what does not for this FLOM.
But then it was also Rosmah who failed to see the forest for the trees when she raced to defend the National Service (NS) programme in January this year after a Sikh participant complained that his hair was cut while he was asleep at the NS training camp in Sungai Bakap, Penang.
Empathy is obviously alien to Rosmah, who perhaps is more astute on matters concerning fashion, travel and extravaganza.
Rosmah and Dr M failed the people
There is no reason for the rakyat should look up to both Rosmah and Mahathir with pride. For one, Rosmah refused to sacrifice her precious time to help the Penan women put an end to the rapes perpetrated against them by timber loggers in the jungles of Sarawak.
The Penan girls and women continue to live in fear of the sexual violations against them. All their efforts in seeking justice had been thwarted by the “powers that be”, forcing these rape survivors to resort to other ways to fight for justice.
While she ignored the cries from these rape survivors in Sarawak, Rosmah ironically did the greatest injustice to the women back home when she found the invitation of Cherie Blair, wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, to give a keynote address on education to poor women at the Asian University for Women in Chittagong, Bangladesh, more appealing.
Mahathir too engaged in a similar modus operandi when he on his own accord gifted timber to buddy Robert Mugabe, former president-tyrant of Zimbabwe to be used by the latter for his 25-bedroom mansion. Leveraging on his position as the prime minister, Mahathir had no qualms doing Mugabe a favour despite the latter being notorious for violating good democratic governance.
When queried as to why he gave Malaysian timber to Mugabe keeping in mind the latter’s reputation, Mahathir in 2009 was quoted as saying:
“Yes, I think we did supply timber for the mansion. We provide timber for a lot of people. He wasn’t a criminal at that time. He hasn’t been put in jail. So what’s wrong with giving timber to the leader of a country?”
Further asked if the gift could be interpreted as a misuse of public funds, Mahathir’s reply was: “No, we give timber to everybody because we want to promote Malaysian timber.”
What remains a secret still is the quantity of timber gifted and who funded the timber transfer to Harare where Mugabe’s mansion was being built.
Such revelations are merely the tip of the iceberg on what Malaysia’s so-called leaders have done to keep their foreign friends happy. What remains to be seen is if there will ever be a full stop to how far these leaders will go to please their foreign friends? It will be interesting to witness at whose expense and to what level will such leaders stoop to get into the good books of those foreigners?