COMMENT Dear Dr Mahathir Mohamad. I would consider “vociferous” as the
best and most suitable word to epitomise your criticisms against Malaysia’s
government of the day in recent times. As a citizen of Malaysia, one has the
right to speak of and criticise his or her government.
Although some of your arguments have gained public support, the current
generation of Malaysia has all the rights to question policies and actions
of your governance in the past.
To set the record straight right at the start, I am neither a supporter of
Umno nor of “the other side”.
Nevertheless, being a civic-minded citizen of Malaysia, I would like to
request your explanations pertaining to various issues spanning throughout
your 22 years in your journey as the prime minister of Malaysia.
Although I duly recognise your contributions to Malaysia, any flaw and
mistakes that took place under your long premiership should be taken as your
mishandling. This is what real leaders do.
And, hopefully, this commentary of mine is not to be seen as seditious.
1. Universities and University Colleges Act 1971
I, as a current undergraduate in a public university have seen how this
Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) has actually encroached the
freedom of the university students to express themselves on and engage in
The students have been barred from partaking in politics (until in October
2011, when the Court of Appeal declared Section 15 of the UUCA as
unconstitutional), but even until this very moment, the students are not
allowed to engage in political activities within the campus.
Being an alumnus of Universiti Malaya, you should know that the students
union in the past had better opportunities to represent the students.
Nowadays, the grandeur is just in the name.
The real impact of UUCA came when the then Education Minister in 1975
brought amendments by inserting new sections to the Act, especially to
Section 15, which prohibits the students from taking part in politics.
This minister then was none other than you, yourself, Dr Mahathir.
Incidents such as the Tasik Utara and Baling Demonstration by your former
“favourite”, Anwar Ibrahim, have caused you to stifle the freedom of the
students. Ever since 1975 up to now, the students are facing the brunt of
your actions. What is your explanation?
2. The Malaysian Judiciary
Following the crisis between your administration and the judiciary in
1988, you brought “many interesting ways to solve it”.
I guess you had enough when the High Court in 1988 declared that late
Karpal Singh should be released from extrajudicial detention and the Supreme
Court revoked the work permit of two foreign journalists that your
Maybe, if you still remember, they are both from Asian Wall Street Journal
and they wrote about suspicious financial transactions of some civil
servants, before you started to take actions against them.
Seeing the meddling of the judiciary in your path, the Federal
Constitution was amended and since the Barisan Nasional had two-thirds
majority then, everything was a smooth ride. Article 121 then said, “the
judicial power of the Federation shall be vested in” the High Court.
However, after the amendment, Article 121(1) states “the High Court shall
have such jurisdiction and powers as may be conferred by or under federal
law”. The power of the judiciary has been significantly reduced, and
parliamentary supremacy amplified.
The courts are now reduced to adjudicate under the laws as approved by the
government. What is your explanation?
3. Virgin forests of Sarawak
Mahathir, after you becoming prime minister, the records show rampant
deforestation in the forests of Sarawak. However, the loggings have long
been going on, for years.
Taib Mahmud himself has made allegations that his uncle, Abdul Rahman
Yakub (the previous chief minister of Sarawak, before you become prime
minister) had dished out numerous logging concessions to his family members
and cronies. But, as far as I know, no action has been taken, what more to
investigate against Abdul Rahman.
Taib Mahmud, himself has been constantly linked with allegations of
dishing out logging concessions to his cronies, squandering millions of
ringgit. Many Orang Asal lost their “Native Customary Rights” land due to
irresponsible actions of many. Still, no action was taken.
Perhaps, you would still remember Bruno Manser. The man from Switzerland
who fought for the rights of the Penan tribe in Sarawak. Manser pressured
the Malaysian government to preserve the greeneries in the Penan settlement
areas and not sacrifice these to unwarranted development (like the “Monument
of Corruption” Bakun Dam ) and unstoppable deforestations.
Your administration took strict actions against the activists and caused
more miseries to the ethnic groups. Mahathir, I don’t know how true this is,
but you are even said to have sent a letter warning Manser, saying “it is
about time that you stop your arrogance and your intolerable European
superiority. You are no better than the Penan”.
If the words did come from you, is this not insulting the Penan, and even
the other Orang Asal? What is your explanation?
4. Election for Kota Setar Selatan seat in 1969
Just a few days before the racial riots of 1969, in your election campaign
vying for the Kota Setar Selatan seat, you were reported to say, “I don’t
need the Chinese votes to win”, only to end up losing to a PAS candidate.
Isn’t your statement seditious and racist in nature? Should it be even
uttered by a leader? Have you ever apologised to the Chinese community, if
you have really said so? What is your explanation?
5. Crony Capitalism
Your administration was often linked to the debate of “cronies”. Why, even
our founding prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra claimed in his book, in
the aftermath of the 1969 riots, that “Saya yakin bahawa kiranya Dr Mahathir
menumpukan masa yang lebih kepada kerja-kerja parti dan tidak menghabiskan
masanya di dalam perniagaan membuat rumah di Kedah bersama-sama dengan
syarikat yang bernama Federal Construction Company, sebuah syarikat yang
dipunyai oleh orang-orang Cina dan dalam perniagaan-perniagaan yang lain,
maka kemungkinannya untuk menang dalam pilihan raya itu adalah lebih besar.
“Menurut maklumat yang diterima, beliaulah yang telah mengambil peranan
yang penting untuk menolong mendapatkan kelulusan Kerajaan supaya tidak
kurang daripada 238 lot tanah Simpanan Melayu dikeluarkan dari simpanan itu
bagi maksud projek perumahan yang tersebut”.
To translate, Tunku Abdul Rahman alleged that you had relations with the
Federal Construction Company owned by the Chinese and you had used your
“connections” to convert 238 plots of Malay reserve land for the commercial
use of the construction company.
This allegation was made even before you assumed the premiership. What is
6. Suqiu 1999
Before the general election of 1999, several Chinese associations under
the Alliance, called “Suqiu”, produced a memorandum to push for a more
equitable and just social and economic policies in Malaysia.
Your administration, facing severe backlash after the expelling of Anwar
Ibrahim, used this memorandum as a springboard for future electoral victory
by winning the votes of Chinese and others.
Although your cabinet agreed and accepted the Suqiu memorandum, as soon as
you emerged victorious from the election, you rejected the memorandum by
stating that it questions Malay rights and supremacy.
What boggles me is that, did you not foresee the impacts of the memorandum
before accepting it? You are also reported to have said that “we were
threatened then, as elections were just round the corner. That’s why they
came up with the memorandum, as a threat to the Barisan Nasional, and that
if we didn’t entertain their request they would tell the Chinese not to
support us.This was deliberate and the timing was well-planned. What could
we do then?”
Isn’t this a betrayal of trust and a Machiavellian tactic? What is your
7. Other Issues
a.. After BN losing the states of Terengganu and Kelantan in GE 1999,
the petroleum royalty payments used to be paid to the respective states were
channelled into Jabatan Pembangunan Persekutuan. This has caused the states
to face lack of financial source and seen by the rakyat as incapable of
building and developing the states. Perhaps this is what you wanted.
b.. When the court declared that the election in Likas, Sabah 1999, as
null and void due to the existence of phantom voters in the electoral roll,
the 1958 Elections Act was amended to not allow the judiciary to scrutinise
the voters’ list after it has been certified and re-certified. Is this a way
to allow the elections tainted with unscrupulous tactics?
c.. After the 1988 Umno crisis, after which Umno’s registration was
annulled, Parliament decided not to allow the courts to challenge a
political party’s decision. I do know that Parliament and your
administration (the cabinet) are two distinct entities, but bearing in mind
that amendments are proposed by the ministries and with the BN then having
two-thirds control in Parliament, your influence in such a decision can
never be denied. Through such amendment, the rights of the members of
Parliament and the power of the courts have been significantly reduced.
What are your explanations?
I believe that all Malaysians would want to listen to your explanations
and even better, a statement of apology if the fault lies in your side.
Nevertheless, I would like to thank you for the changes you have brought to
Your effort in opening up Maktab Rendah Sains Mara, albeit with only 10
percent for the non-bumiputera, had enabled me to study in the institution.
Mahathir, several policies under your administration have also reduced the
abject and relative poverty rates in Malaysia, although there are still some
debates on the precise poverty rate.
Thank you, once again, and God bless you.
GANESHWARAN KANA is a third-year economics undergraduate in
University of Malaya and blogs at universaltheboss.blogspot.com