PETALING JAYA: From his early days in the Cabinet to his heydays as prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad today spewed sarcasm after sarcasm to counter critics who call him a dictator.
“To cut a long story short, as a true dictator, I decided to resign. All dictators do this.
“But I was lucky. I was able to resign before I die. This confirms that I was a true dictator. I ordered some ministers to rush up to me and cry when I made the announcement.
“So carry on calling me an authoritarian dictator, a Mahazalim and Mahafiraun, who was undemocratic, and has become super rich through corruption. It is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” wrote the 93-year old at the end of his 27-paragraph blog entry today.
He was referring to his announcement at the Umno general assembly of 2002, when he stunned delegates by announcing his resignation from the party and government. The memorable drama that unfolded soon saw then trade minister Rafidah Aziz, Umno Youth head Hishammuddin Hussein and secretary-general Khalil Yaakob rushing to the stage pursuading Mahathir to stay on. Mahathir resigned a year later, leaving the government in the hands of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy, Najib Razak.
Mahathir’s blog post today comes more than a week after he was named as the prime ministerial candidate for Pakatan Harapan, the coalition of four oppposition parties, including the Umno splinter party PPBM which he chairs.
That anouncement did not sit well with some in the opposition, who said Mahathir’s 22-year “dictatorship” was enough reason why he should not return to his old post.
Barisan Nasional leaders too joined the attacks on the veteran leader, many labeling him a dictator.
ISA arrests and Salleh Abas sacking
Today, Mahathir touched on major incidents in his eventful career, including the mass arrests of actvists and dissidents in the Ops Lalang swoop of 1987, and the sacking of the then lord president, Salleh Abas.
Both episodes have been at the centre of the familiar argument against him over the years, accusing him of undermining the country’s judiciary and police.
But he fought back his critics this time with heavy doses of sarcasm, his trademark style of answering his critics both in Malaysia and abroad.
On allegations that he played a role in removing Salleh as lord president, Mahathir said the then attorney-general Abu Talib Othman had already absolved him of blame.
But that “cannot be true”, he wrote.
“Everyone saw how I caught hold of Salleh Abas by the scruff of his neck and threw him out of his court. I don’t know why Abu Talib should deny popular belief. Maybe I gave him bran. I don’t remember.”
On Ops Lalang, Mahathir said then police chief Hanif Omar had stated that it was the police who ordered the mass arrests under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA).
This too, said Mahathir, is “not true of course”.
“I went over his head and ordered as many people as possible to be detained and tortured. If he denies, it must be because of bran. Still he does not seem to like bran,” he wrote.
‘My wife’s wealth’
Mahathir also said his wife Dr Siti Hasmah Ali was flaunting her wealth as the “first lady”.
He then turned to another accusation, that he had amassed huge amounts of money during his time in office.
“The money is kept in secret accounts in numerous banks. The accounts are so secret that I myself don’t know which bank. Not to worry. The police will find out. Another RCI can be set up.
“So far they have not been able to trace any. But not to be disappointed, Najib discovered that 30 billion ringgit was lost by Bank Negara 30 years ago,” he wrote, referring to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into foreign currency trade losses by the central bank. The RCI concluded that Mahathir and his then deputy Anwar Ibrahim were responsible for the losses.
Mahathir went on to give examples of how a dictator behaves and how he had carried himself throughout his political career.
Among them, he said he was not accompanied by tight security in public and no building is named after him, unlike other leaders before him.
He said he forbade schools to be named after him because he did not like to create a personality cult around him.
“So when I became Prime Minister I did not allow my name to be attached to any building, road or public toilets. Now the Najib Government is doing me a favour. Reference to me in text books have been erased.
“Thank you Najib for being such a democrat,” said Mahathir.