From Gobind Singh Deo, via e-mail
Former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed has only himself to blame for building a nation which he believes is not ready for change. He said that the liberalisation efforts by the current Najib administration could well spark off racial unrest.
The fact of the matter is that our government, particularly under the leadership of Dr Mahathir had implemented policies which had the effect of cowing its people into accepting things as they are, notwithstanding the negative impact such policies had on its people and nation building.
The Mahathir administration capitalised on authoritarian rule where the rakyat were put in fear of political repercussions if they went against the system.
Rampant and blatant political abuse of laws such as the ISA and the Sedition Act against those who spoke up served as a dark reminder to all of the ramifications of taking bold steps in pursuit of justice or change.
The manner in which Dr Mahathir dealt with the judiciary in 1988 spoke volumes about the freedom of judges to do what justice demanded of them. It was the beginning of the end of concepts such as independence of the judiciary then from.
Policies which led to large scale financial abuse in terms of how economic wealth and opportunity was to be divided and used amongst Malaysians advanced by the Mahathir administration mustered even more the ‘accept, obey and be grateful’ attitude onto our people, with certain favored individuals being given preference over others.
In education, his government failed to develop intellectual excellence nor put into place a system which would have put our generation today on par with most others in our surrounding regions, let alone the rest of the world.
How did Dr Mahathir expect to build a more open and resilient society with policies such as these? What he did was the exact reverse.
He put into place a system where the people of this nation became even more divided so much so that now, it appears to him that pushing forward the call for change and liberalisation could result in tensions which may “spark racial unrest”.
Whatever the case, Dr Mahathir fails to recognise the fact that despite his authoritarian rule, Malaysians by and large persevered and pushed on for change, the first of which success saw the end of his rule as Prime Minister of Malaysia.
The struggle continued and has now reached the point where most Malaysians are no longer afraid to take controversial nor bold steps towards liberalisation. This was reflected, amongst others, in the movement calling for free and fair elections.
The current regime, under pressure by this awakening, is not obliging us with reforms for want of love for change but more so for fear of losing political power which could thereafter result in major shifts in policies which will see them accountable for their shortcomings in their 55 years of rule.
With respect, Dr Mahathir is living in the past. He must look forward and accept that in time to come, whether he likes it or not, Malaysia will have to deal with its racial problems and overcome it.
The move forward would have been much easier if his administration had implemented policies bridging the racial, economic and political gaps which pulls Malaysian society apart today.
In the ultimate analysis, it is he who must take full responsibility if it is indeed true that reforms which seek to bridge the divide amongst Malaysians or ‘liberalisation’ do spark racial unrest.
The writer is MP for Puchong