Hornbill Unleashed

November 14, 2009

Dictators have feelings, too

Filed under: Alternatives,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:01 AM
Tags: , , ,

By Pak Bui



apec-mapThis weekend’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Singapore will see a US President sit down for talks with all ten Asean leaders, for the first time.

A glance through the list of leaders meeting Barack Obama yields a substantial number of dictators and authoritarian leaders.

Najib “Mr Nine Percent” Razak helms a corrupt, racist party and relies on the courts, the police, the MACC and the media to suppress dissent.

Thein Sein is leader of Burma, the tormented country whose name was changed to Myanmar in an attempt to erase its history, and to build a new, reclusive, brutal dystopia. Thein Sein is the public face of a military junta that jails, tortures and kills political dissidents and ethnic minorities.

Bouasone Bouphavanh, PM of Laos, heads a largely unreconstructed Maoist state, complete with regimented morning exercises in the central square in Vientiane, with loudspeakers blaring out stirring patriotic music.

hun.sen.17.2.08Hun Sen, from Cambodia, is a hardened veteran of civil war and no stranger to summary executions.

Nguyen Tan Dung, PM of Vietnam, heads a country struggling with a fractured past, and with trying to merge capitalism with a single-party Communist state.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei has managed to keep his fiefdom under his thumb, while making cosmetic concessions in the form of meaningless elections.

Lee Kuan Yew’s son in Singapore has used the judiciary to control his feeble-minded, brainwashed public. He has been allegedly reported to have alleged authoritarian policies, allegedly. He does, however, boast a highly-trained and vicious pack of litigation lawyers.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has disappointed the people of the Philippine Islands with endless corruption scandals, and manipulation of the judiciary, amidst grinding poverty among the ordinary people.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of Thailand are probably the least authoritarian of the whole bunch. They have resisted the temptation, so far, to depend on the military to crush their troubling domestic opposition.

A history of strongmen

Can we and our Asean neighbours ever break free of the curse of our domination by generations of strongmen?

Our history is littered with them: Sukarno and Suharto in Indonesia, Najib’s father Razak and Mahathir in Malaysia, Lee Kuan Yew and his successor, Senior Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Marcos in the Philippines.

We may not have the wisdom to evaluate history as it happens in front of our eyes. We may only see patterns, and gain meagre understanding, some years after historic events occur.

Yet we can clearly recognise the people power revolutions evident in the eviction of Marcos, and the fall of Suharto, and the drama of Malaysia’s 12th General Election, as being significant events in each country.

These are turning points reminiscent of the fall of tyrants such as Erich Honecker in East Germany and Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, stunning twists in the currents of history that we commemorate now, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

leekuanyew-memoirsThe ranks of these old-school dictators are thinning in Asia. Lee Kuan Yew appears grey and bent on television now, but remains grey and bent on controlling his island state, and imposing on it his interpretation of its political identity and history.

Mahathir retains an unquestioning, unthinking following, but sounds increasingly ludicrous, whenever he spits out his venom in the mainstream media, and is laughed at for his endless flip-flops and contradictions.

I have to admit that I have never looked at Mahathir’s blog, despite my calls last week for Hornbill Unleashed readers to be inclusive and broad-minded in our reading habits. I pay scant attention to him, even when he holds forth on Malaysiakini, the NST or RTM.

I suppose Mahathir will eventually discover, as Lee Kuan Yew is learning, that people will move on and ignore the obsessive strongmen of a past generation. There can be few more apt punishments for these old-fashioned strongmen than to be – simply ignored.

Over the weekend, as you celebrate with your tapping fingers, your new-found freedom to solicit alternative news and views from various blogs and news sites in Malaysia, spare a little thought for the aging strongmen.

From reports I have heard, these strongmen are fearful of death. Years ago, I heard a story that Lee Kuan Yew checked into Singapore General Hospital for some prostate problem and interrogated his bowing and scraping doctors about every minute detail of his scans, and every single figure printed on his urine and blood test result forms. I suppose, to paraphrase TS Eliot, he saw the eternal Footman snicker, and was, in short, afraid.

These strongmen are equally fearful of losing their grip on the millions of their countrymen, and of losing the adulation and fear they once inspired. This may explain why Lee Kuan Yew still insists on trying to dominate the Singapore Cabinet and Parliament, and why Mahathir still spews out racist rubbish online.

Perhaps this is the one overwhelming reason why they fear death: it is the ultimate loss of control over their populations, whom they once kept captive and in thrall.

I am sure dictators do have feelings, yet I cannot summon up much sympathy for Mahathir and Lee.

Last days of the Termite?

I am reminded of scenes from two decades ago, of the last days of Romanian strongman Nicolae Ceausescu, making his last public speech in Bucharest. He knew his time was up, because the crowd began to boo him – unthinkable in the past. He left the public square in a helicopter soon afterwards.

Can we Sarawakians raise our voices together, to chorus a resounding “boo” to our own home-grown strongman, when we vote in the upcoming state election and then the 13th General Election? The Chief Minister has been in power for 28 long and filthy years.

Will he watch his empire crumble? I doubt it. But you never know. After all, who could have predicted Mahathir, Marcos and Suharto living out their final days, watching events overtaking them?


  1. […] in Oxford street in London like what happened in after 1987. It will do you good if you could check this article up,” The Chief Minister has been in power for 28 long and filthy years.’  or better still […]

    Pingback by BN Sarawak”CM Taib or Sng Bashing Time” « Audie61’s Weblog — November 15, 2009 @ 10:34 PM | Reply

  2. “Dictators have feeling too” – feelings for their wives and children, oh ya!
    They don’t care for their country and the people. It’s wealth and power that they want and it’s never enough and somehow ‘conscience’ simply fail to register in them.

    Comment by Jong — November 14, 2009 @ 12:49 PM | Reply

  3. We may not live to see this day very unfortunately.Many of this evil strongmen, i am afraid will outlive us many times over.
    There is a saying,good man dies young.The rich and filthy rubbish will continue to live longer on their often futile and soulless journey.The poors who cant afford proper medical care ,will die earlier.The riches live on and brings misery to this earth.
    Leo Tolstoy at the age of forty-one,believing that he has encountered death itself. “the death of Ivan Iiyich’ described a man fighting his inevitable end,and ask the existential question:why must a good person be taken before his time?Mahatir,LKY and white termite are definitely not in that category.
    “This sickness is not unto death”(John 11.4).But still Lazarus died.
    Lord! Give us weak eyes for things of no account,and eyes of full clarity in all your truth.

    Comment by wilson — November 14, 2009 @ 9:26 AM | Reply

    • “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”—-that is one powerful story, dude. Required reading for all human beings, because each and every one of us is going to live it and die it, too.

      Comment by 'Nother fellow — November 14, 2009 @ 10:03 PM | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: