The former prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad is just a spiteful old man. As Malaysia’s longest serving PM, one would have thought that in his twilight years, he would promote harmony and inclusiveness.
Instead, he acts like someone who is concerned with his own interest to the total exclusion of the interests of Malaysians.
At the end of June, he lashed out against non-Malays and claimed that they wanted to “change the name and ownership” of Malaysia, from “Tanah Melayu” to a multiracial country.
Then, in early July, Mahathir claimed that multiculturalism went against the Federal Constitution. He said that Malays and Islam faced a threat from the DAP.
Perhaps, Mahathir needs to be reminded of the nation we inherited from him.
When some Malaysians look at the Petronas Twin Towers, they praise Mahathir for his vision, but what use is this gleaming structure of steel, concrete and glass, when in its shadow, live hundreds of homeless people, and communities of foreigners?
The Malaysia of today is divided by race and religion. The wealth gap is widening. Crony capitalism is thriving. So, how did we get to this sorry state?
The people who lived through the Mahathir era, belong to two groups. The majority wax lyrical about him, and are mostly Malay. Those who despise him are mostly the non-Malays, who were treated as second-class citizens, because of his affirmative action policies.
Mahathir, an avid reader, was allegedly keen on development. His much hyped Wawasan 2020 and the plethora of skyscrapers dominating the KL skyline was evidence enough for the younger generation and the rural people, to think that he was a splendid leader, who modernised Malaysia.
The irony is that Mahathir’s Wawasan 2020 fizzled out. Malaysia became one of the most corrupt nations, Malays did not unite and the nation was torn apart by racialism, and religious extremism.
Mahathir is a man of contradictions.
During his tenure, he preached the policies of “Buy British Last” and “Look East” but unbeknown to all, he did secret deals with Margaret Thatcher of Britain and Ronald Reagan of the United States.
Thatcher built the Pergau Dam in Kelantan, in a deal which involved Malaysians buying British arms, while in a secret deal with Reagan, American soldiers used our jungles for jungle warfare training.
In his “Look East” policy, Mahathir wooed the Japanese, but neglected Malaysian Chinese, whose work discipline and business acumen had helped shape Malaya and later, Malaysia.
The Biro Tata Negara was encouraged, and to this day, the proponents of Ketuanan Melayu drive a large wedge into Malaysian society. This is not the work of a visionary.
Mahathir’s diehard supporters point to Proton and say, “Look, he put Malaysia on the world map.” They don’t realise that making clones of a Japanese car was done at the expense of public transport.
Mahathir probably wanted each kampung family to own a Proton but our roads are clogged, poorly maintained, and regular toll increases cause further hardship.
Cars are subject to many tariffs and duties, and are more expensive than in the west. Traffic enforcement is poor and many unlicensed cars are driven by people with neither a driving licence nor insurance.
Mahathir’s power base was the rural folk, in other words, the Malays. He played on their insecurities and told them that Malaysia belonged to them. Non-Malays were denied many opportunities, like scholarships to public universities, jobs in the civil service, and teaching posts, both at schools and our institutions of higher learning.
He consolidated his power by robbing various institutions of their independence. The judiciary was emasculated during Mahathir’s time, in what is known as the “Constitutional Crisis of 1988”. The old Umno was declared illegal and Mahathir transferred monies and assets from the old party, Umno, to form Umno-Baru.
Mahathir sold Malaysia Airlines to his friend, for a song. During his watch, English-medium schools became Malay-medium. Jakim, which interferes in people’s private lives, is Mahathir’s creation.
To keep his Malay supporters happy, he would offer them handouts and more benefits, but in the next breath, he would scold them and call them lazy.
He failed to tell the Malays that success involves hard work, dedication and long-term commitment. He used the Malays’ superstitious beliefs, insecurity, and fatalism, to increase his powerbase, at the expense of non-Malays.
Mahathir may have changed the Kuala Lumpur skyline with its impressive towering skyscrapers, but deep down, our nation is morally bankrupt. Many political leaders, and civil servants are corrupt. We are divided and our different peoples have failed to integrate.
The Malays have been brainwashed by Mahathir and the religious clerics. Instead of trying to unite the different races and get rid of corruption, cronyism and nepotism, they encouraged more of the same.
Do you still think Mahathir is a visionary?
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.