PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who is in the UK for a three-day working visit, today accused Western countries of hypocrisy in their concept of democracy and migration, among others.
In his talk at the prestigious Cambridge Union, he said he had accepted common “Western” criticism that Malaysia is a non-democratic country or one that is ruled by dictators as he felt the West “did not really mean what they say”.
“We keep looking at the West because the West has a lot to teach us,” he said.
“For example, the West has taught us that we are not quite democratic. Although we have elections and the opposition did manage to win quite a number of seats, we were told that we were not democratic enough because we don’t change government every time we have elections.”
Mahathir said this was perceived to be the case as Barisan Nasional had won every election for 60 years until being defeated by Pakatan Harapan last year.
“From the East, there was no criticism. They seemed to have nothing to say against us.
“But the West was always telling us we are doing things wrong, we are not up to the mark, we are not democratic enough – all sorts of other criticism was levelled against us.
“And of course, we accepted this criticism because we feel that the West doesn’t really mean what they say.”
For example, he said, Malaysia was included in the British commonwealth of nations when “wealth was only confined to a few countries” and “not common at all”.
He said the sultans were also referred to as rulers but not allowed to rule during the British colonisation.
“So when they criticise us and say that we are dictators and things like that, I don’t think they mean it,” he said, prompting laughter and applause from the audience during his talk, “Democracy in Malaysia and Southeast Asia”.
Mahathir also challenged the West’s concept of “a world without borders”, saying they still build borders to keep others out of their countries despite encouraging capital flows.
“The West comes up with a lot of new ideas and we are told to accept those ideas.
“Unfortunately, when they say ‘a world without borders’, they meant only capital flows – capital can flow in and out regardless of borders.
“Now of course, although they still believe in a borderless world, they are putting up walls and barbed wire to keep people out. So the borders have come back for people, but for capital it’s okay.”
He blamed such capital flow for Malaysia’s currency crisis in 1997.
He said the crisis was caused by foreign investors pumping large amounts of money into the market to drive up the value of shares. He said they then left the country with their profits, leaving local investors with virtually worthless shares.
He added that the government’s “unorthodox” solution of fixing the exchange rate had managed to mitigate the crisis.
“Of course we were told that the country would collapse, but instead of collapsing, the country did very well and came out of the crisis.
“Now, the great minds in the IMF and World Bank say Malaysia was right to do that, but it’s too late for many other countries.”
Mahathir also accused the West of encouraging wars and tension through regime change and trade sanctions, adding that smaller countries are being threatened to prevent trade with countries facing such sanctions.
He listed the conflict in the Middle East as well as confrontations between the US and China, and the US and Iran.
“This confrontation has led to warships being sent to the South China Sea and the Gulf, and we are now on the brink of a war,” he added.
He said the East had remained silent instead of offering their ideas for other countries.
“We are not proposing ideas for the rest of the world to accept. We are ready and willing to accept ideas coming from the rest of the world, particularly from the West,” he said.