Mariam Mokhtar: Mahathir – Victim, Victor or Villain?

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Is Dr Mahathir Mohamad suffering from “Victim mentality” from his experiences during his student days in Singapore?

When Mahathir was studying medicine, he probably had many nasty encounters with poorly educated and unruly Chinese whom he felt were rather aggressive and dismissive of the Malays.

Today, Mahathir still appears to be affected by his past. He still blames the Chinese for the disparity in wealth. Not a word about the failure of the NEP, or corrupt Umno and Umno-Baru leaders.

In an interview with The Asia Times, last month, Mahathir said, “We have no problem with China’s Chinese, but we have a problem with Malaysian Chinese. They have very dynamic people, they have become extremely rich in Malaysia and they own practically all the towns in Malaysia. This is not healthy.”

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How well does Mahathir know Malaysia?  Not every Chinese man is Robert Kuok or Vincent Tan.

Barry Wain’s book, “Malaysian Maverick”, reveals that the student Mahathir took a taxi to a friend’s residence, and was deposited at the servant’s quarters at the back of house.

Mahathir did not forget this slight and as a result, the whole nation has been dragged into his personal victimhood. As prime minister, he could have led the nation on a different path and eradicated racism, but he didn’t.

Instead, we have Mahathir’s book, “The Malay Dilemma”, the never-ending NEP, and more affirmative action policies. Jobs in the civil service, armed forces, the GLCs, banking sector, Petronas, and power-providers, are predominantly held by Malays. The non-Malays are sidelined, whilst the Malays are spoilt with handouts and made weak and dependent.

Today, the Malays claim that because they are economically backward, they will not share political power with the non-Malays.

Don’t they ever wonder why the non-Malays had to motivate themselves, work twice as hard, mortgage their homes twice or beg and borrow from rich relatives, to educate their children to escape the poverty cycle. As a result, many non-Malay Malaysians who were denied basic help in their homeland, have settled overseas, where they could realise their ambitions.

For 22 years during his first tenure as PM, Mahathir led the chorus to denounce the Chinese. During his second stint as PM, when we thought he would undo his racist reforms, Mahathir started off fine, but within 22 months, reverted to his former self.

In 21st Century Malaysia, it is disheartening to note that 63 years after independence, we are still arguing about Malays versus Chinese, but cannot devote our time and energy to think about 5G, artificial intelligence or ways to uplift our lives.

We almost always exclude the original bumiputra – the Orang Asli – in our conversations. The Malay will declare that he is discriminated by the non-Malay; few private businesses want to employ him because he does not speak Mandarin, a Chinese boss will only promote his Chinese staff and he is aggressive towards Malay employees.

On the other hand, I know many Chinese-owned businesses, mostly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), whose employee base is majority Malay.

Some of these businesses have a large Chinese-speaking clientele, and employees who speak Chinese are an asset.

The description of a hard Chinese boss could fit any pushy, work-oriented boss. Many also spread the same discriminatory stories about having a female boss.

When Mahathir became PM, he could have done more to integrate the races. Instead, he allowed his experience of being snubbed by the Chinese to fuel his inner demons.

By blaming the Chinese for the lack of Malay progress allows him to evade responsibility for his policy failures.

During his 22 years as PM, his Cabinet could have vetoed his policies, but they went along with him and helped to divide Malaysia further.

Former ministers like disgraced Najib Abdul Razak, Muhyiddin Yassin, Hishammuddin Hussein, Razaleigh Hamzah, Zahid Hamidi, Anwar Ibrahim, and other veteran Malay politicians condoned Mahathir’s policies.

The Chinese blame game enabled the Malays to lavish attention on Mahathir. They would feel sorry for themselves and Mahathir.

The blame game is also used by many Malays to give them the “right” to metaphorically attack and complain about the Chinese, and in the process secure more handouts.

The creative use of religion to further enhance this control completes the vicious cycle. More religion rammed down Malay throats has not decreased the drug taking, incest, numbers of single mothers and abandoned babies, nor the divorce rates, broken families or Mat Rempits.

Whether or not you support Dr Mahathir now, or have at any time in the past, is a moot point.

Look around you. Who are the rich Malays? Umno-Baru (and PAS) leaders and their cronies. Who can afford the fast cars, the overseas homes, the foreign holidays, the multi-million ringgit gems and designer bags, on a measly ministerial salary?

There are also many urban Malays who are as poor as their rural cousins.

The problem is not the Malaysian Chinese but the corrupt and greedy leaders who want to ensure that the ordinary Malay remains poor and has to depend on handouts.

If we were to remove race-based politics, Malaysia would progress and prosper. Forget Mahathir and the old guards and move forwards. – Rebuilding Malaysia