Mahathir’s Side of History: As They Say, Liars Are Sightless

24 December 2011

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Malaysia chronicle

Abraham Lincoln had this to say: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

They say liars are sightless. They swathe their eyes to the truth and trust that people they talk to are as dim as themselves. Why do most politicians customarily lie? They discern that the majority will follow rather than think for themselves. A lie told often enough becomes the truth. To lie in politics is a Machiavellian mode of manipulation and conspiracy.

Mahathir’s intelligence and political astuteness are generally acknowledged by his acquaintances and enemies. Mendacity or mendacious propaganda is Machiavellian. The people are already familiar  with his political  slant as he understands the Malay minds better than any of the past and present leaders in UMNO. The book ‘The Malay Dilemma’ (1970) that he wrote 11 years before he became Malaysia’s 4th Prime Minister is worth reading. It is an insightful analysis of the Malay mind.  The Malays in general have a feudal mindset and Mahathir has acknowledged this in many of his writings and intellectual discourse. He either failed or did not want to do enough to change the mindset of the general Malays despite helming the nation for many years, for fear that an enlightened Malay race could not be easily manipulated. The Malays – especially the rural folks –  can be easily manoeuvred by leaders to make them believe a lie to be truth if it is well propagated.  The UMNO propaganda tools – newspapers and the electronic media – are ever ready to help their political masters to remain in power.

Must have lied routinely

Telling lies is for political expediency and we can expect this from Mahathir. He must have lied routinely in his political career. It is noteworthy, throughout his career as a prime minister and past this era he has seldom admitted his mistakes. It is not his character or principle to accept his mistakes or weaknesses. To Mahathir, ‘to admit one’s mistake is to admit one’s weakness’. Critics say that  ‘he has a very strong character’. The people seldom hear him apologise for his mistakes, hence dealing with this Machiavellian persona, his political enemies must learn to be equally incisive.

Understanding Mahathir’s wiliness is as simple as having to accept him as he is. Reading his 843-page Memoirs – ‘A Doctor in the House’ (2011) – noticeably, some relatively hard-to-believe facts are written about issues and personalities who were never in his good book. Anyway, this is only his side of the stories.

Even Chin Peng had his side of the stories as told in his book,  ‘My Side of History’(2003) – a 527-page ‘recorded journey of a man who opted to travel along a different road to pursue a dream he had for his country’. Reading his ‘journey’ makes us understand how stoic this man was and how he stuck strong to his principles till the end of his struggle. Leaders – good or bad – are often ‘successful’ due to their strong character.

Mahathir has his side of the stories to tell on many issues that must have incurred the wrath of the people for the past many years. Some of these narrations from his Memoirs can never go unchallenged in the court of opinion.

His view of the Chinese: “Losing my Parliamentary seat hurt terribly and on the ride home with Hasmah, I could not help shedding  tears. The taste of defeat was unfamiliar and it was painful. I was also angry at the Chinese, in particular the MCA, who I felt were responsible for my defeat and with it the undermining of my political future.” (p196).

So the insinuation here is that it was not his fault then, but the Chinese who did not vote for him. Mahathir had lost the Kota Setar Selatan parliamentary seat to a PAS candidate Haji Yusof Rawa in 1969.

On Anwar Ibrahim: “Anwar should have been the Prime Minister of Malaysia today. But if he is not, it is because of his own actions.” (p698)

In other words, Mahathir blamed Anwar for his ‘disillusionment’ but not the former’s ultimate resolution to dismiss the latter from the government for trying to ‘dislodge’ him.

Complaining about the noise

On the dismissal of Salleh Abbas as Lord President and the judiciary:  “… the Agung showed me a letter that Tun Salleh had written to him: complaining about the noise  that was being made in the course of repairing the Agong’s private residence near Tun Salleh’s own house.” (p565).  “I recently called the Attorney General at the time, …. and asked him where was the first letter. He said it was with the Government. I can have no access to it now but I am prepared to swear on the Quran that it was the letter and the instruction from the Agung which caused action to be taken to remove Tun Salleh Abas.” (p568). “Tun Salleh demanded that the tribunal be made up of his peers. We obviously could not find enough Lord Presidents… Tun Hamid Omar, who by then was the Acting Lord President, chaired the tribunal.”  (p568)

So, he did not blame himself but the Agung and the lack of Lord Presidents to be in the tribunal for Salleh’s predicament.

On Tengku Razaleigh:  “We also heard Team B spent RM20 million on their campaign, with most of the money provided by Tengku Razaleigh himself.” (p541).

Beyond doubt, given the chance Razaleigh would like to refute this feral accusation against him.

I don’t remember

On the permanent government administrations (such as the police or the judiciary): “Ultimately, we had no way of enforcing our decisions on them.” (p551)

But we have heard of the ‘fixing of judges’ and of how a well-known lawyer with good political connection wrote the judgement for a judge. Even when this was revealed in the VK Lingam RCI (Royal Commission of Inquiry) the matter was just swept under the carpet. Mahathir was reported to have said to this,  ”I don’t remember.”

On interfering with an ACA investigation: “Though some witnesses were hostile towards me, nobody came forward to say that I forced him to tell lies to support me. Datuk Shafee Yahya who had earlier accused me of interfering  with an ACA investigation…. Our meeting did not go well and Shafee became angry, accusing me of interfering with his duties. Actually, the affair with the ACA had nothing to do with Anwar’s case. But Shafee had his day in court and seemed to be happy to vilify me.” ….” (p695)

Shafee was only doing his fair duty as an obedient ACA officer like any other dutiful government servant but this had hurt Mahathir.

On the removal of Ghafar Baba: “I criticized some UMNO leaders in Terengganu for staying too long and not giving a chance to young aspirants….. he interpreted my advice there to mean that I wanted older leaders to step down.” (p411). “ I did not want to remove Tun Ghafar but what would have happened if I did not appoint the new Deputy President of UMNO…..” (p411)

Ghafar realising that he was only  being  ‘made use of’ by his superior in the party during the latter’s ‘bumpy’ times in politics was very humiliated, caved in and resigned. Seeing which side of the bread was buttered at the time of crisis, only one UMNO politician at the time came to sympathise with Ghafar and she was Rafidah Aziz – sighting that it was against Malay tradition and etiquette to disgrace an elderly man.

But Soros did it and made a lot of money

On Tajuddin Ramli and MAS, after the debacle in forex trading by Bank Negara:  “Claiming that he had bought Malaysia Airlines out of national duty, Tajuddin demanded that he receive the price per share that he had paid when he bought them.” (p711) “ But I knew that he had bought the company because he felt it was a good investment.” (p711). “Our purchase of his stake received a lot of criticism because we paid him RM8 a share, at a time when the market value was RM3.62 per share.” (p711)

If only Tajuddin was given a chance to rebut this. The MAS fiasco has still been a hot issue long after Mahathir left the government.

Malaysia did it and lost a lot of money. But Soros did it and made a lot of money: “….It was a matter of taking calculated risks, and when one of our speculative ventures failed, we lost a lot of money. After that lesson, we got out of the business. “ (p671). “I mentioned Soros by name as one of the traders who had manipulated the currencies of Southeast Asian countries and undermined their development.” (p671)

Soros must be smarter then our Bank Negara executives then.

On his ancestor: “ I admit that some Indian, or more accurately South Asian blood flows in my veins, but from which part of the Indian subcontinent my ancestors came from I do not know.” (p24)

We have to forgive him on this for his selective memory. He almost forgot where ‘exactly’ his ancestors came from. As Abraham Lincoln once said,  “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.”

He was the Prime Minister

Despite what has been documented clearly that Malaysia did seek loans from the World Bank to overcome the 1999 financial crisis, he has adamantly denied that it was not he who sought it. The blame – as usual –  falls on Anwar though Anwar was at the time and prior to his dismissal from the government only the Finance Minister when Mahathir was the Prime Minister. Any layman would discern that without the blessing of the Number 1 in the government it would not have been possible for his subordinates to bulldoze their ideas through especially when it involved loans from the World Bank amounting to millions of dollars.

At the height of the Asian financial crisis, Mahathir sacked Anwar in 1998 and subsequently served as the Finance Minister till his retirement in 2003. The Finance Ministry could not have endorsed any colossal deal without Finance Minister Mahathir’s knowledge and consent.

It is the mainstream media – the  propaganda implement – that has been misleading the rakyat all these while about Mahathir and Anwar. No economists during the economic turmoil in 1997 could deny that, without the urgent loans taken from the World Bank at the time to ride out the financial crisis Malaysia it would have roughly affected the country. Just accept this fact. The loans came in at the right time to at least cushion the effect of the bad recession during the time until sometime later when the country subsequently pegged the ringgit against the US dollars and gradually began to recover from the economic smithereens. Is it a shame not to tell the truth?

Despite not being in favour of George Bush, Mahathir had the knack to engage Jack Abramoff using ‘taxpayer’s money’ to lobby for a chance to meet Bush. The lobbying part of the story was not highlighted by the local media until the news broke out very much later by other sources. Is it also a shame here not to tell the truth?

To swear on the Quran

Excepts from one of the documents from the World Bank supported the evidence that the country did seek financial help from this international body:

“In view of these circumstances in July 1998, the Government announced a National Economic Recovery Plan to bring the economy back on a positive growth path.”

“The Government has proposed a plan of action to mitigate the adverse social impacts of the crisis which threaten to reverse the gains made in the past.”

“The Government has approached the Bank for help in strengthening this plan and implementing it through a Social Protection Project.”

Reportedly, officially World Bank documents showed huge loans were taken by the Malaysian government from the international bank, when Mahathir denied the claims and challenged Anwar to swear on the Quran over the allegation that the former had sought the loans. His challenge to swear on the Quran reflects poorly on his understanding of Islam and his credibility as an elder statesman. It says in the Quran, “…that the Believers who succeeded … are those who turn away from ill speech… but whoever seeks to go beyond that, these are that exceed the limits.”  (23:1,3&7).

Playing politics in the name of God is a misdeed. It simply shows weakness and lack of the ability to sustain one’s emotions at times when patience is required. It shows a person being incapable of performing the right action such as providing a rightful answer to a particular situation. It also smacks of undertones that are meant to abuse the truth seekers.

To lie in politics is Machiavellian

As opposed to Mahathir’s rigid regulation of foreign investment and currency control method to avoid the weak ringgit that was prone to future currency attacks – bogged down with the syndrome of blaming currency attackers as root cause of the financial fiasco, the Anwar formula had during the 1997 Asian financial crisis supported the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank plan for economic recovery. Anwar also established a rigorous package that cut wastage on government expenditures, cronyism and endemic corruption among politicians and government bodies and also deferred most major mega projects.

He advocated a free-market strategy to the crisis, which included trade liberalisation favourable to foreign investment. Complying to these prescriptions, it was successfully done in South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and many other countries with the help of loans from the international bodies. And these countries recovered from the economic recession with much pride very much earlier and faster than Malaysia – in fact within two years of the IMF and World Bank prescriptions.

If truth be told, Malaysia did indeed get monetary aid from the World Bank after the sacking of Anwar in 1998. If Mahathir has said, “I can’t remember, he would be excused for his age as he has been known to have a selective memory. But if he wants to portray himself as an honest politician by again telling a lie this reflects on his false pride.

There’s one way to find out if a man is honest ~ ask him. If he says, “Yes,” you know he is a crook. ~ Groucho Marx.

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