Rewriting history the Mahathir way

The writer says that instead of bringing the nation together, Dr Mahathir has metaphorically shown signs of bigotry by insisting on playing the politics of fear.


July 7, 2023

KUALA LUMPUR – A once-respected leader wants Malaysia pushed back into the dark ages.

TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad may have forgotten, but a little over 30 years ago, the then prime minister announced a grand vision to raise Malaysia to be a developed country by 2020.

To achieve that, he drew up a nine-point plan. Topping the list of his Wawasan 2020 objectives was to set up a united Malaysian nation made up of one Bangsa Malaysia.

He also wanted to turn our country into a mature, liberal and tolerant society. The other pillars included creating a liberated, secure and developed Malaysian society.

He also announced his intention of fostering a mature democratic society and ensuring an economically just society where there’s a fair and equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth.

They were lofty ideals, but it’s fair to say that Malaysia, which had impressive economic growth then, really believed it was possible.

No one would argue that the vision Dr Mahathir had painted of a united, liberal Malaysia, where every race enjoyed the country’s success, almost seemed Utopian.

In fact, in his book The Way Forward, he outlines in five essays that for Malaysia to develop, it needs growth, prosperity and multiracial harmony.

But today, we hear a different narrative from the now 97-year-old politician.

Instead of bringing the nation together, he has metaphorically shown signs of bigotry by insisting on playing the politics of fear.

Multiculturalism is now a dirty word to him, and Bangsa Malaysia is like a leaf from DAP’s Malaysian Malaysia, and surely that must be stopped.

Oh, how forgetful Dr Mahathir has become.

If his plan is to be in the news by creating controversies, then he has succeeded, but it has, unfortunately, put the country in a bad light and helped push ugly, divisive and racial politics to the forefront.

It’s incredible that he’s prepared to work with religious extremists, whom he has constantly criticised for decades, to topple the present unity government.

Interestingly, Dr Mahathir had also worked with some of the main component parties in the government.

He defended DAP even before he became the PM the second time around after Pakatan Harapan ended the 60-year reign of the Barisan Nasional/Alliance Federal Government in 2018.

Dr Mahathir loudly proclaimed that DAP had been unfairly demonised.

In a statement made in September 2016, he was quoted as saying that he was “wrong about the party”, pointing out that “DAP’s party song is in the national language and the conference is also conducted in the national language through and through”.

“I see members from different racial backgrounds attending the conference here today. DAP is not a Chinese-only party today but a multiracial one,” he said.

Dr Mahathir has now blamed DAP entirely for the collapse of the Pakatan government, which lasted barely 22 months in 2020, interestingly again, due to his resignation as PM.

No one from Pakatan attempted to oust him, as he wants to believe now. He chose to resign, which Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has consistently maintained.

Muhyiddin has said that it was Dr Mahathir who had opted to pull the party out of the Pakatan coalition when the latter was the chairman and had made a “U-turn at the last minute when the Pakatan presidential council, in its Feb 21, 2020 meeting, made the decision to support him (Dr Mahathir) as PM”.

Now, we hear Dr Mahathir is seeking a political pact with Muhyiddin. So much for principles, but of course this time it’s “to save the Malays”.

An angry Dr Mahathir had vowed that he would never work with those who “stabbed him in the back” – meaning Muhyiddin and others – but three years down the road, both are reportedly sitting together to fight Pakatan.

Enough is said of the past, though. The most regrettable part of our current political discourse is that our politicians have kept talking about the past with their distorted interpretations of history.

It started with Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor claiming Penang belongs to Kedah, and now Dr Mahathir is claiming it is unconstitutional to promote Malaysia as a multiracial country.

The narrative is simple – Malays are under siege, there is a need to save them, and the non-Malays are to blame.

There will be enough of the Malay electorate who will subscribe to these politics out of fear that the present government is being held ransom by the Chinese-led DAP, which wants to remove Malay rights and Islam.

It may be simplistic, but these are powerful and effective arguments to win votes in the Malay heartland.

In a fiery ceramah by PAS leaders in both urban and rural areas, they won’t be challenged to explain how that could be possible when bumiputra make up 69.9% of the 32.2 million population, with the Chinese only comprising 22.8% and Indians 6.6%.

The question is this – how could non-Malays be a threat when we are incapable of even reproducing ourselves fast enough to boost our numbers? For the last six decades since our independence, non-Malays have accepted this and lived with the political equation of race in this country.

This is not going to change.

Almost the entire two million-plus civil servants are Malays, while all the mentris besar and chief ministers, save for Penang, are Malays. In Parliament, of the 222 MPs, 131 are Malays and 24 are Muslim bumiputra.

It’s often said that politics is dirty, but we are seeing politics at its lowest ebb in this country, where race and religion are being dangerously wielded to win votes at all costs.

We need Malaysians to talk about the future and how we can be economically strong, progressive, united, competitive and highly regarded in the eyes of the world, very much like what Dr Mahathir had envisaged in his Wawasan 2020.

Malaysia needs the talent and resourcefulness of all Malaysians, regardless of their race, to make it work. Our competition is the world. Not against each other.

Unfortunately, and very sadly, in his twilight years, the once respected leader wants Malaysia pushed back into the dark ages.

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