Langkawi official: Mahathir only helped rich outsiders

Zainudin Kadir says local people got little, but rich outsiders gained a lot.

LANGKAWI: Dr Mahathir Mohamad, often portrayed as the father of modern Langkawi, was criticised today for enriching people who could help him, and not the local population.

The upper class of society and property developers from outside reaped huge business opportunities in Langkawi from the late 1980s, while most local people only received small chunks of the economic pie, said Langkawi Tourism Association chief executive Zainudin Kadir.

“The development in Langkawi is indeed, of (high) class, but the (local) community does not get anything. Most of them do not get any big opportunity. They are just taxi drivers, (tour) boat operators and petty traders,” said Zainudin.

Zainudin said it was evident from the living standards of the local population as opposed to those who moved in from other places.

Mahathir, chairman of Pakatan Harapan, is contesting the Langkawi parliamentary seat in the general election on May 9.

“I think the younger generation who are cheerfully supporting him now were not even born yet when I went through the hardship of being in the tourism industry. They do not know that Mahathir did not help (me). He only helped the rich people who could help him,” he said.

Zainudin said Mahathir’s bid for election could be seen as him trying to take personal credit for developing Langkawi rather than to lift the status of local people.

He said the island’s development stemmed from the success of the Barisan Nasional as a whole, he said.

Mahathir’s exclusive development methods was in stark contrast to the inclusive approach currently adopted by Prime Minister Najib Razak since 2009, Zainuddin said.

Among the initial steps taken was to introduce the Langkawi Development Blueprint in 2010, which also emphasised development for the local community, involving a RM450 million federal government allocation through the Langkawi Development Authority.

Langkawi Taxi Owners and Drivers Association president Ramli Ahmad said it was inappropriate of Mahathir to contest as an opposition candidate.

“I am not interested in candidates who contest with the sole intention of seeking revenge and bringing down certain leaders. If you lose, you (try to) take revenge, what’s the use? We should just be content,” he said.

Age was not on the side of the 93-year-old former prime minister, and the people of Langkawi would be taking a risk by choosing him, he said.

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