When Mahathir Mohamad was asked in 2003 by Asiaweek how he would like his legacy to be remembered, he said – “Oh, I really don’t care. In 40 years, I’m not going to be around and when you’re dead, people will say nasty things about you. It doesn’t make a difference to me.” That was during his first stint as prime minister, whose iron-fist rule span for 22 years from 1981 to 2003.
He was asked the same question again in 2021 during an interview on radio station BFM. Aged 95, he had resigned about a year earlier as the prime minister for the second time, which lasted only 22 months. Again, he boastfully said – “I don’t care about my legacy. I am quite sure when I can dead and gone, people will still run me down. And all that will not seem important, I’ll be dead anyway.”
The dictator lied. He actually still cares very much about his legacy even till today. He was pretending that he didn’t care because during both interviews, he knew his legacy would be intact even after he was no longer the prime minister. Before he quit in 2003, he specifically handpicked Abdullah Badawi – a lame duck who slept most of the time on the job – as his successor.
Likewise, before Mahathir resigned in 2020, he had a secret meeting with the very same crooks from the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) whom he had condemned as corrupted, as well as with the same bunch of religious extremists and hypocrites from PAS Islamist party whom he had slammed as deviationists who would go to hell due to their false Islamic teachings.
Mahathir resigned in 2020 after he was satisfied that his most trusted lieutenant – Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin who had betrayed the democratically-elected Pakatan Harapan government – would ensure his legacy remained protected. That’s why the two-time premier did not bother to consult with allies in Pakatan before he resigned, leading to the collapse of his own government.
In both occasions, he made sure his successors were either incredibly incompetent or fabulously corrupted before he resigned.
Exactly what was his legacy? To ensure people remember him whilst his families continue to benefit – both financially and politically – from the web of business proxies and cronies built over 22 years through the monopoly of Malaysia’s economy and award of government contracts.
The award of government contracts, licences and approved permits (AP) gave birth to a handful of billionaire cronies like AP King Nasimuddin, Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary, Halim Saad, Wan Azmi, Amin Shah, Tajuddin Ramli, Mohd Razali, Vincent Tan, Ting Pek Khiing, Yeoh Tiong Lay, Loy Hean Heong, Ananda Krishnan and even his own sons Mirzan and Mokhzani Mahathir.
His Vision 2020 was never meant to be achieved, not with racist and discrimination policy like the NEP (New Economic Policy) derived from “Ketuanan Melayu”, the ideology of Malay supremacy espoused by UMNO which had flopped and instead saw brain drain in the form of hundreds of thousands of technical skills migrated to other countries at industrial scale.
Interestingly, in an interview with the Financial Times during the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok in November 2019, Mahathir self-proclaimed that he considered himself as the only best person to lead the country. He claimed to be the only man with the necessary experience to solve the country’s financial problems – the clearest sign he trusted no one but himself to protect his legacy.
After 24 years running the country, including handpicked a leader who slept on the job while another who became the world’s biggest crook stealing tens of billions of dollars, Mahathir had lost his legitimacy to say he was the best man for the job. Yet, the old dog that can’t learn new tricks shamelessly tried to launch two new national car projects – even after the failure of Proton.
Mahathir could not explain why for 35 years since the establishment of Proton in 1983, the national automaker needed special protection and billions of dollars of subsidies. Proton was given a variety of government assistance – waived taxes alone totalled up to RM13.9 billion. In fact, by the mid-1990s, Proton had sucked up RM12 billion of taxpayers money in the form of subsidies.
The simple fact that Proton has turned profitable after his protégé-turned-nemesis Najib sold it to China’s Geely speaks volumes how Mahathir’s policy of mixing politics with business was a recipe for disaster. Proton was arguably one of Mahathir’s biggest pet projects and legacy which had failed spectacularly. He would not think twice about throwing good money after bad money for the sake of ego.
Like it or not, everything is being controlled in Malaysia through AP (approved permit), import and export permits, licenses, monopoly and whatnot. The system was designed in such a way to enrich only some selected Malay elites – from import of vehicles to monopoly of rice and sugar, and from import of meat to monopoly of energy and toll collections since 1980s.
All hell broke loose after the Nov 2022 General Election. Mahathir was convinced UMNO-led Barisan Nasional would win big, allowing the return of the corrupt government, which in turn would see his legacy remained intact. However, when it was clear that Anwar Ibrahim, his former deputy whom he had sacked in 1998, has become the 10th Prime Minister, the old man was devastated.
Not only his legacy would be dismantled, Mahathir dynasty might collapse if PM Anwar is allowed to crack down on corruption, nepotism and cronyism. Anwar’s first target was Mahathir’s biggest crony – billionaire Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary – whose business empire included plantation, automotive, ports, power generation, postal services, news media, telecommunication and the list goes on.
It didn’t take much pressure from Anwar to see Syed Mokhtar quickly agreed to share 30% of net profit from his cash cow, Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas) – with paddy farmers, on top of RM60 million for rice smallholders. The tycoon’s Bernas monopoly of the rice industry made a whopping revenue of RM4.67 billion and RM182.25 million in net profit in 2021 alone.
Anwar-led Unity Government’s latest target is the “bloodsucking” Touch ‘n Go monopoly on the public transport fare and toll collection payment system, another cash cow originated from Mahathir’s legacy.The joint venture between CIMB Group Holdings (52.2%) and PLUS Malaysia Bhd (20%) and MTD Equity (27.8%) subsequently saw CIMB acquiring all the shares (100%).
It was part of Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto to dismantle the monopoly in the food and essential sectors to ensure competition so that unfair profiteering can be stopped. Unable to criticize the government’s crusade to demolish the decades-old monopoly system which he painstakingly built since 1980s, Mahathir has resorted to playing the race card to overthrow Anwar government.
First, the 98-year-old Mahathir expressed his doubts over PM Anwar’s ability to lead the country through the economic recession and post-Covid pandemic recovery challenges. The former premier then falsely claimed that the majority Malays “did not benefit” from the multi-ethnic unity government, suggesting the Malays cannot survive based on “meritocracy”.
As usual, his ranting saw attacks on vernacular Chinese and Tamil schools, blaming the minorities’ refusal to assimilate like the Chinese Indonesians, who had been compelled to abandon their Chinese names, language, culture and education. Of course, Mahathir conveniently ignored how the Chinese Indonesians, despite having surrendered everything, was still the main target during the 1998 riots.
In 1998, as a result of an internal power struggle within the military elite to become Suharto’s successor, violent riots exploded in Jakarta. The May 1998 Indonesia racial riots saw at least 10,000 people were killed and at least 168 cases of rape – most of the victims were ethnic Chinese. Business owners had to pay local thugs to protect them from the anti-Chinese violence because security forces were largely absent.
Someone should give the senile old man a knock on his head to remind him that at least 80,000 Malay students are studying in Chinese schools nationwide. Malay parents are sending their children to vernacular Chinese schools out of preference for the quality of education there. Is Mahathir trying to say these Malay parents are stupid?
He also slammed non-Malays for their insistence to identify themselves as Malaysian Chinese or Malaysian Indians, allegedly unlike Malays who only identify as Malaysian. It was a big fat lie because like his last endorsed prime ministerial candidate – Muhyiddin Yassin – most Malays actually identify themselves as “Malay first, Malaysian second”, thanks to UMNO’s indoctrination.
It was absolutely hilarious when Mahathir tried to prove his “Malayness” with argument that he chose to identify himself as a Malay even though his ancestors were from Kerala, India. In truth, he was extremely ashamed of his Indian ancestry, so much so he admits there were only spoonfuls of Indian blood in him. He felt insulted – even deplorable – being known as the son of Iskandar “Kutty”.
He happily harboured and protected Indian Muslim hate preacher Zakir Naik, a permanent resident of Malaysia who ignorantly but deliberately said the Malaysian Chinese aren’t born in the country so they, as the “old guests”, must go back to China first before he (the “new guest”) can be asked to leave. The fugitive preacher had also questioned Malaysian Hindu’s loyalty to Mahathir.
Just because Mahathir is ashamed of his Indian blood, it does not give him the right to demand ethnic Chinese and Hindus to also forget their roots. The racist chose to protect religious extremist Zakir, who didn’t pay any taxes, rather than fellow loyal citizens of Malaysia – ethnic Chinese and Indians. But it appears his trick, legacy and political journey has come to its end.
Not only Mahathir-led Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) coalition lost all the 121 parliamentary seats it contested in the 2022 General Election, the former premier and his son Mukhriz were among 369 parliamentary candidates who lost their deposits after obtaining less than one-eighth of the total number of votes. It was the most humiliating moment in the political career of Mahathir Mohamad.
Heck, the ex-PM had even lost the Langkawi constituency, supposedly his stronghold. In desperation, he quits his freshly established Pejuang, effectively abandoned his crusade under GTA. He has now joined Putra (Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia), the political extension of Malay supremacist group Perkasa, while telling his son to apply to join Perikatan Nasional.
Unfortunately, even religious extremist PAS and racist bigot Bersatu, two main components of Perikatan Nasional, has rejected Mukhriz Mahathir’s application to join the biggest opposition bloc. Mahathir thought he could impress Perikatan Nasional with his latest racist drama. He has forgotten that Muhyiddin and Hadi are 100 times more racist and radical.
Mahathir’s game plan was so outdated that the opposition could see miles away how the desperate old man wanted to piggyback on Perikatan Nasional for some free seats in upcoming six state elections. The problem is he has zero value propositions to offer. Exactly why should PAS or Bersatu sacrifice seats for Pejuang which they can win without Mahathir’s help?
The two-time premier should realize that his expiration date is long overdue. His attacks on non-Malays mean he cannot cooperate with Pakatan Harapan. His son’s desire to join Perikatan Nasional was seen as a desperate, opportunistic and unprincipled move. His sales pitch that Malays need protection – forever – has attracted not only very little interest, but was seen as competition to Perikatan Nasional.
You see, Mahathir believes he was superior and Malays have little or zero dignity. Hence, when he attended the so-called Malay Dignity Congress in 2019, he insulted and belittled them for being lazy, untrustworthy and weak and indoctrinated them with the belief that they badly needed a leader like him to protect them. He had no clue that it was an admission of his own failure during his 22-year-rule.
Malays might have been hoodwinked by Mahathir in the 1980s. But the community is a lot smarter since the day the government lost the control of mainstream news media to alternative media. Now, the former dictator has accused Anwar administration of being a cruel dictatorship after his “Malay Proclamation” gathering to incite and provoke Malays to overthrow the government was called off.
If Mahathir does not care about his legacy, he would have retired after his recent humiliating defeat. If he still has some tricks up his sleeve, he would not have panicked and labelled Anwar a dictator without looking at the mirror. And if he still commands meaningful support from the Malays to continue his political journey, he would not have joined Ibrahim Ali’s party. You can’t fool all the people all the time.
Source : Finance Twitter