The surprising thing about young fools is how many survive to become old fools – Doug Larsen, US newspaper columnist
The older he gets, the better he thinks he was.
It would be ludicrous for anyone to suggest as much but, at 97, Dr Mahathir Mohamad seems convinced that he remains Malaysia’s future.
On Thursday, the former premier announced a new Malay-Muslim coalition, the Gerakan Tanah Air, or GTA, which “is… a bid to change the government.”
His motives were clearer the day earlier. Then, he said the new coalition was necessary “if we want to save our country, our nation, our religion.”
Dr Mahathir should be clear. Who, or what, is threatening the country and Islam?
Indeed, the question of any threat to the Malays or Islam must be aimed at the Malays themselves because they control all the levers of government and, by virtue of that, well-nigh everything else if they had a mind to.
The monarchy is exclusively Malay while the civil service, the armed forces and the police are overwhelmingly Malay. Even the majority of elected legislators are Malay with a good many in opposition, which only illustrates democracy at work. Even the courts are Malay-dominated.
So, what’s Doc talking about?
I also find it seriously depressing to hear the same, tired rhetoric 65 years after independence. Can’t he come up with better cliches?
Has he stopped to consider that his statements might be considered indifferent at best, and insulting at worst, to a large number of Malaysians?
It presupposes that the country is of, by and for the Malays. Full stop. It appears that, to his mind, the remaining 36%, or 11.5 million people don’t, or should not, matter.
Actually, like many Malaysians, I know that the nation faces at least two serious threats.
They are, however, not vague or irresolute. These are the real and palpable threats of dishonesty and corruption that will destroy Malaysia if not checked.
We find it fashionable, no, convenient to dismiss Singapore, to denigrate its achievements because, well, it’s “small.”
But why is there so little corruption there, a fact acknowledged by international bodies? Because, there, the law is strictly enforced and everyone knows it. Would-be criminals know retribution will follow and that’s been key.
In Malaysia, unfortunately, tolerance of corruption has been widespread for a long time, but it felt like – or we liked to think it was – small potatoes. Now, like fissures spreading out from an earthquake, mini-1MDBs seem to be breaking out.
The latest is the Littoral Combat Vessel disaster where we learn that the government has spent RM6 billion on naval vessels for the country’s defence needs but has “nothing to show for it” despite eight years having passed.
We’re told that both the Ministry of Defence and private firm Boustead had “ignored” the Navy’s views on the matter.
That no one’s screaming with indignation or baying for blood only reinforces the notion that we are corruption-tolerant or, at least, resigned to it.
The other threat is the creeping use of religion and race to justify crime. When it is said it’s OK to vote for a corrupt person because he is of a certain religion, danger is truly everywhere, and we should head for the hills.
Now if the old man could tilt against said threats and not at windmills, I’ll begin listening.