Dr Mahathir’s speech, the same old story – Tay Tian Yan

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His topic was “The Dilemma of Malaysia,” a topic that would leave him with enormous space for elaboration, and would contrast with his notable writing “The Malay Dilemma”.He started with pre-independence Malaya, talking about the differences among the races, their relative strengths and weaknesses. His viewpoints were consistent with what he had penned down in his book almost half a century before.The agrarian culture of the Malays had caused them to lose their competitiveness while the business genes of Chinese Malaysians put them visibly ahead in economic prowess.

The Malays were willing to share the administration provided that the Chinese were willing to share the economic cake. The Malays needed the patronage from the government but he wanted them to forego their crutches.Although the Chinese had to settle with policy restrictions, they still performed exceptionally well in economy. While the New Economic Policy had its positive side, it would take much longer time to achieve its goals.

If you have been living in this country for the past few decades, what he said is absolutely nothing novel to you simply because you are one of the many products manufactured under this political engineering.Dr Mahathir’s cognitive blind spot lies with his overconfidence in the past, so much so that he remains very much stagnant in the past without realising that indeed the world has changed, the country has changed, and so have the Malays and Chinese.

He should not have applied the old mentality to our society today. With the openness, free competition, democracy, liberalism, meritocracy, etc, that comes with globalisation, the erstwhile value system is already crushed.The “Malay dilemma” is no longer applicable to our world today. It is imperative for Malaysia to supersede the “Malay dilemma.”And then he went on talking.He admitted his biggest weakness was his lack of a pair of sharp eyes and because of that he had repeatedly picked the wrong heirs, from Tun Musa Hitam, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Tun Abdullah Badawi and to Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

He said if he were the incumbent prime minister, he would choose to quit instantly, hinting at Najib.He said he could not think of anything wrong that he had done during his tenure as the PM, and that if he could turn back time, he would make the same decisions all over again.He kept hitting out at the sitting prime ministers even after he had bowed out, because he said he wanted to see the country back on the right track, and would be obliged to voice up if he saw any problem.Perhaps he has forgotten that basically his heirs have been practicing the policies made by him. Although they might not have done it the same way, or with the same team of people, the direction is more or less the same.

From a third party’s point of view, the biggest issue with these heirs has been their failure to walk out of the shadow of Dr Mahathir.They shy away from making major reforms, and have missed the opportunities and power made available to them. They lack the dominant style of Dr Mahathir and as a result, they end up nowhere.Notably, Dr Mahathir touched on the Chinese and moderation in his speech.He admitted that during several general elections, in particular the 1999 elections, where he lost some of the support from the Malays, it was the Chinese voters who were on his side then, allowing him to continue running the country with over two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Perhaps Chinese Malaysians would regret that the support they showed Dr Mahathir in the past failed to change his mentality, and be converted into impetus for actual progress and liberalism.Dr Mahathir called himself a moderate, being firmly against extremism such as the Islamic State and boycott of Chinese traders.Unfortunately, his moderation was partial at best. He did not reject Perkasa nor Isma, arguing that Perkasa was doing things Umno could not afford to do, especially in defence of the Malay sovereignty.Whichever way you look at it, without doubt Dr Mahathir’s speech was a touching one.

He still had his charm and people should respect his right to speak up. Indeed at times we do need him to stand up and say something. – mysinchew.com, February 14, 2015.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of MyTimes. – The Malaysian Insider 14 February 2015

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