Mahathir’s ‘truth’ and his bizarre logic

comments     S Thayaparan     Published     Updated

“I'm a realist, I do what I can do, if I can't do, I don't.”

- De facto opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad

What if I said that Malays have a lazy, rent-seeking culture, relying on political and social influence to gain wealth and unable to retain power despite all their special privileges? Would this be wrong? Would this be racist? Would this be seditious?

How about if former prime minister and now de facto opposition leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this? Would it still be “racist”? Would this be considered some sort of truth telling? Would it make a difference when he said this last week or when he was prime minister of this country?

More than a decade ago, in an Umno general assembly speech (which also coincided with a celebration of sorts - 21 years in office), the former prime minister engaged in some “realist” assessment of the Malay community he had led for over two decades.

As reported by Malaysiakini, he claimed - "If today they (Malays) are colonised, there is no guarantee they will have the capacity to oppose the colonialists."

The premier said Malays had failed because they were lazy and sought the easy way out by reselling their shares, licences and contracts to non-Malays.

"They cannot be patient, cannot wait a little, they want to be rich this very moment... no work is done other than to be close to people with influence and authority in order to get something," he said.

"After selling and getting the cash, they come back to ask for more."

Therefore, there is a rather bizarre logic in his thinking when he said that he had no regrets about stifling dissent in young Malay people during his tenure. Bizarre because the former prime minister has never been afraid of using the stereotype of the Malay community as a means of galvanising support.

And this extends to the other communities as well. Well by “others”, I really mean the Chinese community because as we all know the Indian community is absent from the discourse. In the same speech at the 2002 Umno general assembly, he also referenced the Chinese community - the very community that Umno has always demonised as a threat to Malay hegemony but in reality, meant they were perceived as a threat against Umno hegemony.

He said, "If we take out the Chinese and all that they have built and own, there will be no small or big towns in Malaysia, there will be no business and industry, there will be no funds for the subsidies, support and facilities for the Malays. Learn from the Chinese."

Only Mahathir could balance such contradictions, playing the racial card against communities, including the one Umno claims to represent. Which is why in Mahathir’s thinking there is really no reason why he should not be standing shoulder to shoulder with his former opponents in an attempt to bring down the Najib Abdul Razak regime.

He really does not care what political pundits, who seek to remind people of what he did during his tenure, say because he knows that he then enjoyed the support of the majority of Malaysians and he did this using the kind of realpolitik that oppositional parties during his regime did not grasp or were uninterested in learning.

While some opposition supporters blather on about “truth and conscience” but offer no real evidence that these form the desideratum for oppositional forces in this country, the former prime minister has no problem twisting the facts on the ground or contorting social and economic realities to fit his narratives...

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