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Mahathir set the Malay hegemonic agenda

July 16, 2016

Mahathir might have sowed the seeds of racism and religious bigotry during his term in office and some non-Malay leaders want to distance themselves, but why did they not do so while he was in power?



By P Ramasamy

It is only natural for Marina Mahathir to defend her father Mahathir Mohamad from attacks coming from the MIC. There was no necessity for the President of the MIC to say that if Mahathir formed a political party then his contributions and achievements would be erased from the country’s political history.

Whatever you say about Mahathir, a segment of the population, composed of Malays and non-Malays, will always remember his contributions to the nation. In fact, given the disastrous politics of Najib Razak, Mahathir seems quite popular even at his present age.

In the history of this country, he is the only former president of Umno and prime minister who took umbrage with the policies and actions of Umno leaders who came after him. He could have gracefully retired from politics with the attendant perks given by the government.

However, he refused to do that simply because of the rebellious spirit in him.

During his term in office, I don’t think he showered favours on his children or groomed them to succeed him.

I might agree with the criticisms, not necessarily coming from the MIC, that Mahathir might have sowed the seeds of racism and religious bigotry during his term in office. Some of the non-Malay component leaders want to distance themselves from Mahathir, but the question is why they did not do this while he was in power.

For instance, Samy Vellu who was a long-time president of the MIC used to praise Mahathir saying that he was a “gift” to the Indian community. However, when Mahathir resigned from his post, and following the Hindraf movement, it was the same Samy Vellu who said that Mahathir was the source of the problem of the Indians.

But why did MIC, MCA, Gerakan and other component parties in the BN not take a stand against Mahathir’s polices and programmes? Why did they allow themselves to be “bullied” to follow the dictates of Mahathir? Even the opposition that stemmed from Umno factions was unable to remove Mahathir and many paid “heavily” for alienating Mahathir, including Anwar Ibrahim who was convicted for sodomy and jailed.

Mahathir could be hardly described as a democrat or a person who cherished and pursued accommodative politics. Yes, he was instrumental in setting the path for Umno to pursue Malay hegemonic politics to the point where non-Malays became marginalised with the passage of time.

He might not have enriched himself or his family, but he was generous enough to allow his cronies and friends to benefit handsomely from projects under the guise of “helping” bumiputeras.

It is true that it was under Mahathir that non-Malays became marginalised politically, economically and socially. Yes, some of the worst racist polices were introduced in the name of the New Economic Policy. But at the same time the rich and well-connected non-Malay businessmen and entrepreneurs became extremely rich and powerful. However, whether this acquirement of wealth translated in terms of real benefits to the non-Malays is another sad story.

The Japanese and Koreans loved Mahathir. His Look East Policy was a hit with the Japanese. He was adored by the Japanese leaders on his many visits to Japan. Given the over-emphasis on democracy and transparency in Japanese culture, many, especially the right-wing, preferred leaders like Mahathir who did not care much about democracy.

Mahathir could be totally insensitive to the Chinese in Malaysia. Once he said that Japanese need not apologise for its war misdeeds to Malaysians.

Mahathir might have been a strong and powerful leader. He certainly knew what he had to do even though some of his polices were not in the best interests of the country. Racial relations took a powerful battering from his overwhelming focus on sheltering and assisting the Malay community to the fundamental neglect of the non-Malays.

The problem was not so much him, but his racial methodology in political governance.

Because of his Indian ancestry and being ethnically Malay, he had to “over prove” his Malayness by coming out with pro-Malay and pro-Islamic policies.

However, he never allowed himself to be swayed by extremist elements within the Malay society. He used to criticise Malays for not being grateful to Umno. It is the same Umno that Mahathir is critiquing for abandoning the Malay community.

P Ramasamy is deputy national chairman of the DAP and Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.

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