Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mahathir’s remarks cause for concern — Lim Sue Goan

June 22, 2012
Malaysain Insider
JUNE 22 — Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has made many shocking statements after leaving office. In January 2010, he claimed that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were staged by the US government.

In a recent speech, he openly criticised Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s liberalisation policy. He said that the government was too soft in handling the Bersih rally and warned that too much freedom risked stirring an ethnic hornet’s nest. He later implied that he was not impressed by the government’s gesture to revive a Chinese independent school in Kuantan, believing that the vernacular school system has divided the country.

We should not overly discuss Mahathir’s remarks since he is no longer in office. However, it is worrying that his remarks might trigger the nerves of the party’s hawks and conservatives, resulting in more obstacles to the work of reviving the Chinese independent school in Kuantan.

During his administration, Mahathir adopted the authoritative style of leadership, which led to many disgraceful events, including Operation Lalang, suspension of judges and the movement to save government enterprises. Therefore, it has been expected that he would not agree with Najib’s transformation plans.

However, Najib is the prime minister candidate of his choice. He did not severely criticise Najib like how he did Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Has he lost control recently?

Mahathir is opposed to openness and liberalisation. It shows that he has fallen behind the times. Democratisation is now a general trend, something which can’t by stopped by individuals, political parties or even governments.

He said that racial confrontation has become more intense nowadays and changes brought by liberalisation could inflame Malays. He wants to make liberalisation the scapegoat. Inharmonious racial relations are a result of racial politics, which has reduced mutual trust among the people. And he cannot not shirk the responsibility.
There are racial problems in the US and other democratic countries, too. However, black slavery might not have been overthrown without the help of democracy and the country might be facing a more serious racial problem today. A democratic system allows the Americans to openly debate, fight and resolve sensitive issues, preventing contradictions from turning into conflicts.

Therefore, liberalisation is not the cause of racial polarisation. Without liberalisation, the country would not be able to retain talents and attract foreign investment, causing the economy to shrink. The country will fail to move forward and the people will turn conservative and extreme.

Similarly, vernacular schools are not the obstacles of communication among young people. Instead, it is politics that has caused mistrust among them.

Vernacular schools show the country’s advantage of diversity. If mother-tongue education is suppressed for so-called national unity, it is actually just turning the clock back.

Najib’s transformation plans are heading in the right direction. The country will never get rid of the middle-income trap without liberalisation. The BN and Umno might not be able to keep power in the next general election without democratisation.

Even Myanmar has announced a second round of reforms to attract foreign investment. We have no reason to continue implementing a protection policy.

However, some people, particularly people living in remote areas, still believe in Mahathir, while the conservatives and hawks who have kept quiet “for the sake of the overall situation” might also have received orders.

Hopefully, all these are just unfounded speculation and the country will not stop its pace of transformation. Otherwise, we might fall into troubled times even before the election is scheduled. —

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