Tuesday 15 May 2018

Gerard Ong : On Mahathir and Malaysia.

Singaporeans by and large are happy for our Malaysian brethren. May 10 2018 signaled a political rebirth for Malaysia. We cheered for them on cMay 9 and are still celebrating their victory. But there are many among us who have voiced negative feelings over Mahathir’s political comeback. 

Their gripes - Mahathir will make life difficult for us, Mahathir will rescind all agreements we made with Najib, Mahathir will screw us and use Singapore as a bogeyman when things go wrong, etc, etc. These detractors are only concerned with their own self interests and seeing everything in negative light.

I think such people are missing the point. Singaporeans generally have no love for the man. But that does not mean that we do not respect and admire what he has done for the country in GE14. Yes, he did rule with an iron hand in the past and was called a dictator and many unmentionable names but so did LKY. He was called a dictator, autocrat, thug and other less respectable names. 

Mahathir jailed his opponents and LKY did likewise.You criticised or accused the old man and you could end up a bankrupt in Singapore. But that did not mean we did not grudgingly admire and respect him for what he did for Singapore?

Dr Mahathir is a wily old fox and an experienced and cunning politician. If it wasn’t for him entering the fray, Najib would still be in power. The reign of absolute power in one man, corruption and kleptocracy will continue in Malaysia. If you made a Police report against Najib, you could even be branded a criminal or terrorist for doing so.  

Imagine the PM of a country using the nation’s Police Force to do this own personal bidding or making the Attorney General his personal errand boy to do others in using the judiciary and the courts?  

With Mahathir at the helm, it will not be plain sailing for the PAP when dealing with the new government of Malaysia. The HSR and other projects will now be reviewed as the newly-installed government would like to know whether pockets of Najib’s cronies have been lined with potential kickbacks. He needs to re-look at all projects no only with Singapore but China, Japan and others as well. 

Malaysian government departments and statutory boards will now have to administer policies in accordance with the rule of law and not according to the dictates of the PM and his ruling party. With the immediate sacking of the Attorney General other heads will roll as well. 

Can you blame Mahathir for doing this? The country was going to the dogs. Something had to be done and he galvanised the people to make it happen. He was simply the catalyst the opposition coalition and the people needed.

I personally am indifferent to Dr Mahathir. I don’t love him or dislike him. I believe beneath all that bonhomie he displays, there is a steely man beneath that smile. His geniality should not be mistaken for his sense of purpose and grit. He is a toughie deep down inside. Look what he has just done at 92. Most of us would be flat on our backs at 80. 

He is back and the PAP had better believe it and deal with his comeback accordingly.But the good Doctor must know deep down inside, he can’t be the same Mahathir he was 20 years ago. He came back, championing the rule of law, doing away with nepotism, cronyism, corruption and giving democracy back to his country. He can’t afford to go back on his word because then history will judge him as being no better than Najib.

For now, I respect this man for what he has done for his country and his people. I rejoice for Malaysia and all Malaysians. Many of them are my personal friends and I am extremely happy for them. Like I said , they have balls and they took back their dignity and self-respect. When money was offered to them, they flung it back at Najib’s face and threw both him and BN out. How's that for guts and self-respect?

Mahathir turned the light back on when darkness and gloom was pervading the country.  He was the man of the moment and it was because of him, the Malays, Chinese, Indians and others put aside their differences to win back Malaysia for their grandchildren. For that I say Hormat Tun!

As for our Singapore leaders, well we have to find a way to live and cooperate with the new government. We are after all, members of an extended family. If we can work with them with maturity and graciousness, relate to them with more humility and mutual respect, then the future bodes well for both our governments and its people.

Gerard Ong

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