Hornbill Unleashed

March 3, 2012

The 10 mistakes of Mahathir Mohamad

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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The 10 mistakes of Mahathir Mohamad

Nawawi Mohamad

Former premier Mahathir Mohamad has criticized every prime minister of Malaysia from the late Tunku Abdul Rahman to the current leader Najib Razak, sparing no one except of course, himself. Mahathir has also criticized other world leaders including UK’s Tony Blair and of course George W Bush, the 43rd president of the United States.

So far none of his local peers have swung back at him, which is not surprising considering that several are already dead and only Najib and 5th prime minister Abdullah Badawi are alive. As for the international leaders, they have largely ignored Mahathir’s existence, which only adds to his frustration, but there is nothing he can do to them. However, he can make life miserable for his successors here, and this he is already doing.

When Mahathir retired in 2003, after 22 years as PM, there was talk about his ‘great’ legacy and he was even called Bapa Pemodenan or Father of Modernization. Some 9 years after his retirement, the excesses and sheer ill-judgement of his economic, social and political decisions have come back to wallop the nation with a backlash stronger than the ferocious tsunami of 2006 that devastated much of South Asia.

At 86, Mahathir is now reviled by most Malaysians, blamed for the massive corruption that may soon bankrupt the country if no remedial economic action is taken, and for the apartheid-scale racial fissures amongst the various ethnic groups in the country.


Just pick the New Economic Policy, which was the brainchild of the policymakers of the 1960s but which he abused to the maximum. This abuse alone is enough to ensure that he will stay in the Malaysian Hall of Villains rather than in the Hall of Fame which he still thinks he belongs in.

His peers with better memories including former Finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said last week that the NEP was never meant to create or to be used to incubate a class of Malay capitalists, but to address poverty and to raise the level of Malay participation in the economy. It was never meant to be abused by the government of the day to handpick a select group of Malay entrepreneurs, load them with sharply-discounted government deals and then expect them to prosper and create enough economic ripples to help lift the rest of the community.

This was Mahathir’s first and major mistake. But was it really a mistake? Doubters and critics point to the enormous wealth he accumulated for his cronies and proxies through the money-making schemes hatched under the guise of the NEP, and by privatizing government assets to favored Malay entrepreneurs, one of whom is the disgraced former MAS chairman Tajudin Ramli. Not able to deal with the ‘instant success’ or the stress of big time business, many succumbed to debt during the 1998 Asian financial crisis. Tajudin and friends like Halim Saad fell from hero to zero, losing enormous amounts of money and requiring massive government bailouts.

Cronies but the masses get nothing

The second mistake Mahathir, in his foolishness, made was to pool the major part of the nation’s wealth in the hands of a few. This time he included non-Malays millionaires such as Vincent Tan, Robert Kuok and Ananda Krishnan. Tan has just announced his retirement, Kuok unhappy with the worsening racial system in the country has chosen to stay Hong Kong, while Ananda is wanted by the Indian authorities for allegedly having corruptly wangled a telecoms licence to buy into Aircel.

This pooling of wealth in the hands of a few inevitably left the ordinary Malays and Malaysians with just a few crumbs to share amongst themselves, a slow-boil situation that has blown up to today’s red-hot disputes about social and economic fairness. Not only is there not enough money for scholarships, education, healthcare, employment and welfare for everyone, even the Malays who have been repeatedly told by Mahathir’s Umno party that they will get priority, have left in the lurch.

Malays now form 96% of the poorest 40% lowest income earners in the country. As for the non-Malays, of course, they have felt the pinch more. Many have been forced to go overseas to work and to study. That’s right, educational and employment opportunities are scarce for the non-Malays in the country. Again, the only group that benefited were the elite in the Umno party, their families and cronies. So Mahathir – despite his self-praise – was in fact rather shortsighted. Money was far more important to him than he cared to admit.

Trusting the wrong people

The third mistake that Mahathir made was choosing the wrong people for the wrong jobs. He also trusted the wrong people. All of the Malays tycoons that he picked had no real business savvy but were merely the trusted aides of former Finance minister Daim Zainuddin. That is why guys like Tajuddin, Halim, Rashid Husein of RHB Bank, Mohd Noor Mutalib and Abdul Rahman Maidin of MRCB fared poorly in the end. Some have even been hauled to court to settle debts.

Only Daim Zainudin remains ‘filthy’ rich. His nominees ended up owning all the various banks and business enterprises meant to be transferred into Umno Baru. Somehow, as the Umno legend goes, Daim managed to secure these for himself. This was obviously a huge letdown for Mahathir. Instead of ‘tricking’ people over to his point of view, for once, he had been had!

Set Malaysia off on the borrowing habit

Mahathir did not foresee that the National Debt could be as high as it is today, having ballooned to over RM450 billion. Despite several ‘begging’ trips to Singapore and Brunei, he was politely rebuffed. In the end, he borrowed from overseas by issuing bonds and ‘stealing’ every spare sen from Petronas and the other Government-Linked-Companies to fund his mega projects. Throughout his 22-year rule, Mahathir never saved a sen for Malaysia for a rainy day. And this was his fourth mistake.

Weak grasp of economic principles

Mahathir is just an ordinary doctor; a general practitioner and not a specialist. His understanding of economics is as rudimentary as the average Malaysian. His idea of increasing the equity of the Malays is so simplistic – use the GLCs. Mahathir’s vision of doing business is by profiteering through controlling shares in as many companies as possible without considering the possibility of losing money. Sad to say, real life businesses involves losses, not just profits.

Mahathir’s economic policy was not based on any solid foundation and had never been tested in any country before. It was based on his opinions and viewpoints. If these had been any good or worked, many countries would have already implemented similar ideas centuries ago. Even established capitalist and communist economic systems have come under fire and economic collapse is a norm these days, part of a man-made boom and bust cycle. Several economists have even urged nations to revert back to gold-based currencies, an ancient and established type of monetary system, so what are Mahathir’s child-like economic concepts by comparison? His fifth mistake is therefore his skewed understanding of the economy. It led to the controversial de-pegging of the ringgit from the US dollar and the overnight closure of the CLOB share market trading in 1998 – two events that investors have still not forgiven Malaysia and Mahathir for.

Dictator syndrome

Mahathir’s ego and unconscious desire to be a dictator is his sixth mistake. He amended the constitution to weaken the Agong and the Sultans and then made sure that the law and enforcement bodies obeyed him. He sacked the Chief Justice Tun Salleh Abbas and closed both eyes when judges were openly bought by those who had money. It would be tough for Malaysians and their investors to fully trust the judiciary system again. This is why the Umno-BN has lost its integrity and the people their faith in the coalition. Malaysians will always distrust whatever Umno-BN does even if it may be well-intentioned.

Racist policies

To prevent the disintegration of his policies and his misdeeds from being exposed, Mahathir had to resort to his favorite racial politics. He had to convince the Malays that what he had done was necessary and in their interests. He kept for himself the great jewels and gave out the small chips so as to convince the Malays that the war against the other races was real. The non-Malays had to be kept back. Thus the budget allocations for places like BTN or the National Civics Bureau where Malay graduates and civil servants were openly taught to be suspicious of the other races.

But not all the Malays bought it. Such teachings were against Islam and also against universal values. The Malays were left confused, while the non-Malays totally sidelined. So being racist is Mahathir’s seventh mistake.


If Mahathir and Umno have been successful in making sure Malaysia achieves developed nation status by 2020, why does the record show so many serious faults to date. There are only eight years to go but the economy is still in a shambles with the national debt soaring, racial and religious harmony in disarray, and the political situation worsening with Umno-BN now openly resorting to physical violence to stop the opposition from holding their rallies.

The education system is also leading nowhere, healthcare is getting worse and more expensive, the much-touted and corrupt 1Care already rejected before it can even come on-stream, law and order is still questionable, mismanagement and graft more entrenched than before in the Umno-BN government. Instant of all cylinders kicking in, and culminating into the realization of Vision 2020, Malaysia may go bankrupt instead. Not fighting corruption, but perpetuating it is Mahathir’s eighth mistake.

Meddling with the running of the country

The majority of the Malays are poor and still need government help despite 55 years of Umno “successes“ (read failures). The non-Malays have been patient enough and have given Umno enough chances. They have waited until the third generation after the nation’s independence in 1957 and they are now fed-up with Umno-BN. The same too is happening with the Malays. Those not in the direct line of the Umno gravy train, and this would be the great majority, are getting fed-up too. More have voted for the opposition and will continue to do so.

When Mahathir realized that things were turning sour, he handed over the baton to Abdullah Badawi, thinking that he could still control the running of the government by ‘remote control’. But when things were not carried out as he had wished, Mahathir forced an ouster and replaced Badawi with Najib. Granted, the disorganized Badawi was in no capacity to lead Malaysia but Najib is just as incapable too. All through, instead of giving a helping hand, Mahathir continued to meddle with the running of the country. Interfering with the running of the country and disallowing the current leaders to put in solutions that suit the era is Mahathir’s ninth mistake.

Causing trouble in Umno and pushing Mukhriz up the ladder

Yet Mahathir stubbornly refuses to accept or to admit to his mistakes. This is one man who refuses to face up to reality. He is not really interested in the welfare of Malaysians at all, not even the Malays or Umno. He only wants to save his face and to make sure that his son Mukhriz will become prime minister no matter what deals he has to execute with the current batch of Umno warlords to effect this.

Ruthless and completely selfish, Mahathir would think nothing of creating chaos just to fulfill that ambition. After all, he could de-register Umno just to stay in power. Imagine what he won’t dare to do to get Mukhriz in as Umno president. But it is this incessant interfering and trouble-making in Umno that will be his tenth and last mistake.

Mahathir will doom Umno, and in imploding, Umno will very likely take Mahathir down for the count.



  1. When I read the phrase the “ferocious tsunami of 2006”, well it’s hard to feel confident in the content rest of the article. The tsunami was 2004!!

    Comment by Michele Pippen — August 26, 2016 @ 7:15 AM | Reply

  2. There are ppl with vision, ppl who can see and the blind. The blind cannot see.

    Comment by EVel — April 7, 2015 @ 7:36 AM | Reply

  3. How did corruption avoid being #1 on this list of 10 failures? The USD$40+ billion dollar bandit?
    How did racism miss his top 3 fails?
    How did the author miss mentioning the abasement of democracy, the abuse of separation of powers, the manipulation of thejudiciary?
    Failing to learn the mistakes of his policies and learn from LKY successes in Singapore?
    Maybe we should allow Mahathir’s top 20 failures not just 10.

    Comment by simon Thompson — April 6, 2015 @ 9:18 AM | Reply

  4. Mahathir is a total disgraced to Malaysia, in 1997 financial crisis his son shipping business was in big debt and he used Petronas to buy over to rescue his son business. Now he come back and call other people black when he is even blacker than others. I hope God take him back earlier so Malaysia can be better home for all of us

    Comment by Gan — April 4, 2015 @ 11:04 PM | Reply

  5. A Mistake by Mahathir Mohamad in the Analysis of the Middle East, Especially Syria
    An analyst made an analysis on Mahathir Mohamad’s recent comments about the “possibility of the formation of an Islamic state in Malaysia and the need for astuteness against it”. This analyst writes “Mahathir Mohamad warned again that if preventive measures are not taken, an Islamic state will be formed in Malaysia”. The former Malaysia prime minister said in a statement on his blog that “Muslims fascinated by the Islamic government in Syria can implement these violent measures in Malaysia”. Warning the government in Putrajaya on the non-use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) to deal with such actions, he said, “It is not impossible the rebels from the neighboring countries attack Malaysia to establish an Islamic state in here”. He added that “a request for forming an Islamic state is very seductive to young Muslims because they are very disappointed of the states and countries which can save Islam and Islamic countries”. He said that “ the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have been created on the basis of the ideology difference between Sunni and Shia, a difference which can be seen in Malaysia too”.
    Some Malaysian Muslims feel that this country is not Islamic enough and that is why some of them have traveled to the Middle East to fight. He added that “if these people have the idea of making Malaysia as a part of an Islamic government, won’t they participate in attacks against Malaysia?”
    This political issues analyst added that “it was the words of doctor Mahathir Mohamad that were, like last days, a wrong computation in the political analysis of the developments in the Middle East and especially Syria”.
    That the Syrian conflict is rooted in the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites is either a strategic mistake by Mahathir Mohamad, or a wise and intelligent action to lead the Malaysian government to intensify the fight against the Shia.
    As we know, the Syrian government has been formed based on the maximum participation of Syrians in the elcetion, and Syrian Shiites constitute a very small part of the body of that government, and Iran’s support of the legitimate government of Syria relates to Syria’s role in the fight against the occupation regime, and defenders of the Assad regime have not been formed on the basis of religious and ethnicity divisions, and Mahathir Mohamad’s analysis of the conflicts as a war between Sunnis and Shiites is not true.
    West and global arrogance to build coalitions between Sunni extremist groups pretend that Shiites in Iran have started to support the Alawi Bashar Asad, and their goal is to form a united front against the legitimate government of President Bashar Assad through advertising in the world mass media. And as everyone knows, the structure of the government of President Bashar Asad has not been based on religious and ethnicity divisions, and Syria’s Sunni majority played the major role in support of the government of Bashar which is due to extremisim of Wahhabis and excommunicating Salafis even among moderate Sunni because this religious extremism movement realizes any religious affiliation of Shafi’i and Hanafi against their traditional rituals, and counts any Islamic religions of Shia and Sunni as an Ijtihad against the text of the Qur’an and the Sunnah, and deals with them as the heretical followers and even excommunication of Sunni and Shiite sects.
    The second point in the words of Mahathir Mohamad is to frighten Malaysia for the risk of conflict between Sunnis and Shiites in this country and the probability of invasion of the neighboring countries and establishment of an Islamic state in Malaysia.
    Malaysia Shiites have always expressed their commitment to the country’s law and their regards towards Sunnis as their brothers, and despite the warnings of Mahathir Mohamad, there has been nothing against the interests of Malaysia by this innocent minority group. On the contrary, the Shia has always been used by the parties as a political excuse against the other parties. In recent years we have witnessed a wave of arrests and accusations of the Shiites.
    Magnifying Shiite threat in Malaysia is an excuse for Mahathir Mohamad pretext to justify the government’s dealing with the Shiite for internal adjustment, that is, the application of this rule for party adjustment and the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) will be on the agenda of the government policies to implement this objective. Therefore, Mahathir cleverly intends to make the fear of war between Shias and Sunnis in Malaysia to provide a space for the use of the Internal Security Act against the political opponents of the government. As we know, America’s government refused to implement the law and the international community is against the Malaysian government through approving this law, but frightening the world of the possibility of Sunni-Shia conflict and the formation of an “Islamic state” would be helpful for the implementation of the Internal Security Act. Perhaps by the threat from neighboring countries, Mahathir Mohamad points to Indonesia and he is going to give such warnings to Indonesian authorities to create a united front against the probable “Islamic state” through fighting with Shia.
    Of course, as it was noted, the risk of war between Shias and Sunnis in Malaysia and Indonesia is nothing but a self- made plan by Mahathir Mohamad and such a probability for religious conflict due to unequality between the population of Shiites and Sunnis is not reasonable.
    In other words, the number of Shiites in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand do not constitute ten percent of the total population of these three countries that the likelihood of such a conflict could seem reasonable. Thus, the invasion of the neighboring country is a matter of diversion to strengthen the “Internal Security Act” in Malaysia.

    Comment by Hoe Wing — December 20, 2014 @ 2:32 AM | Reply

  6. There are three sides to anything. Your version, my version and THE TRUTH…

    Comment by G Jayasankar Pillai — October 12, 2012 @ 4:09 PM | Reply

    • I like this remark..unbiased fair opinion

      Comment by Ala — October 24, 2012 @ 5:17 PM | Reply

      • This is a fact which can be observed upon keen and unbiased investigation…Hence whatever we have come across in History is NOT ALL TRUE.

        Comment by G Jayasankar Pillai — September 20, 2013 @ 12:52 PM | Reply

  7. Typical malaysians are those who criticise Malaysians; its products, services and its people.
    We are always proud of other countries especially US , Japan and UK. (e.g. malaysian products are lousy, malaysian schools does not provide enough education, etc. and everything in other countries are damn good)
    That is why we could never move forward, it’s because of these parasites that are holding us back.
    We always fail to look at what we have, we only see negative things because we were thought ever since we were young that Malaysia is not a good country to live in.

    if you think this country brings no good to you, feel free to step out and let those who love this country and want to see it develop stay

    Comment by Jeremy — October 2, 2012 @ 12:23 PM | Reply

    • Wah..so angry ah u..relax la..people always go for the good one..if things are not good..of course got condemed la..If there is room to make devolopement..why not..

      Comment by Siakap Sabah — May 3, 2013 @ 3:45 PM | Reply

    • Claim: ‘Typical Malaysians are those who criticise malaysians, its products, services and ppl’
      Argument: You already said typical Malaysians so doesn’t that make the majority of malaysia doing those you claimed? You are branding malaysians for that already so… you kind of agree? Haha
      Claim: ‘Parasites that are holding us back’ Argument: are they? These ‘parasites’ are already leaving the country so what is the issue?
      Claim: ‘If you think this country brings no good to you, feel free to step out’
      Argument: hmm.. i think that’s y so many have already done so? Lol
      Claim: ‘let those who love this country and want to see it develop stay’
      Argument: err..good luck to u if u are gg to stay.. given the choice, ppl are gg to drive porsh, audi, mercedes and you can happily have ur proton lor.

      Comment by Abigail — April 6, 2015 @ 2:22 PM | Reply

  8. He will be remembered as one who presided over the period that brought astronomical corruption, nepotism, financial losses, racism and apartheid to Malaysia. Some politicians are righteous, infallible, great and God-like…only in their own distorted & deranged minds. From an impartial, democratic, transparent 3rd country. We see too clearly. Let me ask him & UMNO leaders, with their undemocratic antics and multi-billion squander and losses, how long would he and UMNO leaders last in US, UK, Can, Aus & NZ before being brought to court? 55 years or 5 weeks?

    Comment by Alan Newman. NZ — July 20, 2012 @ 9:19 PM | Reply

  9. Dear Al tugauw,
    It is so easy to point fingers and blame someone isn’t it?
    What have you done for the Nation?
    What have you been doing to protect the sovereignty of Malaysia?
    If you were given the chance to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I believe (due to your rejection of Heavy industries Policy), we will not have
    1. LRT’s (which is being used by the average malaysian to commute to work and also tourist for sightseeing),
    2. The Twin Towers (which attracted most of the Tourist from Overseas)
    3. we would still be flying in and out from the Subang Airport. because there would be no KLIA due to your on blaming the heavy industries policy of the “stupid and short sighted mahatir” you proclaimed.
    4. House and property value in the Klang Valley would not have appreciated as it is today. BECAUSE of your intelligence as the Prime Minister to depend on overseas market for heavy industries therefore KLIA could be a reality due to heavy COST.
    5. Malaysia would not be able to host the Commonwealth game because NO CHEAP STEEL available to build MEGASTRUCTURE MR. PRIME MINISTER. (so promoting Malaysia for tourism would be hampered)
    6. NO PROTON you say, outcome: Malaysian would be driving Fancy Imported Cars but What BENEFIT does MALAYSIA gets from buying imported cars. lets do the MATH here : MONEY from MALAYSIA ———–> buy from US, JAPAN and EUROPE for cars ————————-> MALAYSIA gets NICE car ————————-> outcome ?? money goes out ————-> and we get to keep a car which would be scrap metal in 10 years!!!!!——————> well MR. PRIME MINISTER Al TUgauw, does this generate income for the Nation???? As bad as Proton might look they still pay Taxes to the Government and provide jobs to Malaysian.

    Should I elaborate more? Your comment itself shows immaturity and therefore I shall say you are not as Visionary as you sound up there



    A Malaysian who loves Malaysia and is doing something to improve the Nation.

    Comment by bob seamore — July 17, 2012 @ 4:42 PM | Reply


      Comment by Name abu — January 28, 2013 @ 10:33 AM | Reply

      • that’s fair comment(even he side on Mahathir)..never said it rubbish, yes he do some mistakes but he still brings a lot of benefit and developments to malaysia. Nobody perfect, but what should do now is acknowledge and learn from the mistakes and try to be better. Stop pointing on others mistakes, lets think and contribute on how to improve and develop our country because what happen in past is already happen. Even if Mahathir admit the mistakes ,it still wont change anything. Unite and lets contribute ideas or anything that we can do for our country(only if you love this country).

        Comment by bakawena — January 22, 2014 @ 4:18 PM | Reply

    • Bob nice argument, however the numbers in this graph don’t distort Malaysia’s economic underperformance under the corrupt and increasingly repressive UMNO. Your statement makes Malaysia look like a failing student saying “but I was never late for class”. http://www.visual-lawschool.com/2015/03/a-picture-speaks-thousand-words-to-show.html?spref=fb
      The facts show that the Malaysian economy is growing at a mediocre pace because its political leaders ate focused on retaining power, enriching themselves and feeding their egos and not the economic well-being of the rakyat and the performance benefits of meritocracy. Mahathir = Fail.

      Comment by simon Thompson — April 6, 2015 @ 9:42 AM | Reply

  10. There should be more than 10 actually…

    Comment by Malaysia Events — March 8, 2012 @ 11:57 PM | Reply

  11. 祸国殃民

    Comment by 叶。Yap — March 3, 2012 @ 5:01 PM | Reply

  12. Often the mere appearance or utterance of someone can be nauseating, especially someone detested in the international community; self-aggrandizing, super-racist, with no consideration for human-rights & equality. Corrupt Malaysian leaderships cannot attract men of integrity; neither can they enact & foster laws to maintain high moral standards, transparency, performance & success in governments like leaders in of NZ & Singapore.
    Alan Newman, NZ

    Comment by Alan Newman. NZ — March 3, 2012 @ 2:39 PM | Reply

  13. What has the ex-Malaysian PM got, to be proud of? Has he left a Malaysian legacy respected, successful and uncorrupted like his next door Singapore? True religion, humanity and morality have no room for plunder & racism. It’s only him glorifying himself, the World Community hasn’t a rice grain of respect for him. Lim Guan Eng is a million times more respected.
    Malaysia has neither transparency (non-corruption) nor real human rights, neither freedom of the media nor true democracy.
    The blacks are only 14% of US population, if Obama can be US President, an Indian can be a Malaysian PM…think about it! How tragically you’ve been treated.

    Comment by Alan Newman. NZ — March 3, 2012 @ 2:38 PM | Reply

  14. Bill Gates
    2003-07 Given or Pledged:$3,519million
    For: Global health and development, education
    Estimated Lifetime Giving:$28,144m
    Net Worth: $59,000m from hard work
    Giving as a % of Net Worth: 48%

    G. Soros
    2003-07 Given or Pledged: $2,109million
    Estimated Lifetime Giving: $6,401m
    Net Worth: $8,800m from hard work
    Giving as a % of Net Worth: 73%

    Tun Tan Sri Dato Dr Mahathir
    Net Worth: $……..million from …..?
    Giving as a % of Net Worth: ?

    Comment by Alan Newman. NZ — March 3, 2012 @ 2:37 PM | Reply

  15. Many people talk of Mahathir’s legacy. What legacy?

    Proton has been a failure. After 20 years of existence and protection, at huge costs to the nation, they are barely able to produce original designs. They had to spend hundred of millions in 1996 to acquire UK’s Lotus to overcome a lack of in-house engineering capability. They are still not able to penetrate the US market, the world’s most lucrative car market. It has not spawned an auto industry, unlike the Korean car industry which grew from the bottom up, making and supplying parts to Japanese auto-makers long before making their own cars.

    Perwaja Steel has been a failure. Set up to realise Mahathir’s heavy industries policy. Loss-making till today. Riddled with corruption, inefficiency and lack of direction. Unsalvageable.

    DRB-Hicom has been a failure. Another one set up to realise Mahathir’s heavy-industries policy. Couldn’t even run a decent bus service. What has it achieved, and, what does it actually do nowadays?

    Renong has been a failure. Set up to realise Mahathir’s policy of conglomerates, copying Japan’s sogososhas (conglomerates). Gets involved in everything. Builds a highway, then charges so much for it that, today, it’s possible to fly up to Penang for less than driving. Starts up a telco, spends billions on fibre optic cables running up and down the country, then gets into financial trouble.

    MAS has been a failure. Cornerstone of Mahathir’s privatisation policy. He had the audacity to arm-twist enough people to grant loans to an individual to buy the airline. That much trust he has in that one person. That single action exposes, more than anything else, his poor judgement. People who has worked or associated with MAS knows that its internal problems have existed for decades – inefficiency, corruption, racism, favouritism, abuse of power. Because MAS’ competition is international, these problems are cruelly exposed. Yet when Tajuddin Ramli took over, he decided to spend RM20 billion ringgit to expand the fleet. Shouldn’t you solve the internal problems first? Of course, we now know that he failed miserably. Now, who picked him for the job?

    Commonwealth Games Village has been a failure. Mahathir’s pride – symbol of his “Malaysia boleh” call. Now a target of vandalism – missing chairs, tiles, etc. Have to spent millions on maintenance every year. Occasionally used for political gatherings and pesta. A definite ‘white elephant’.

    Bakun Dam has been a failure. What was Mahathir thinking of? The project is just not justifiable. And the proof of that must be Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary’s proposal to sell half the electricity generated to his (proposed) aluminium smelting plant. Imagine – you have to build an aluminium smelting plant in order to justify building that dam!

    The 1998 financial crisis. This must be Mahathir’s greatest failure. In the years leading up to the crisis, the KLSE Index reached 1,400 points and property prices was going through the roof. Labour and skills shortage led to ever higher salaries. New car models led to ever higher car prices. Interest rates went up to historical highs. But rumours and speculation fueled ever higher stock prices.

    Profits from stocks moved into more stocks, then moved to property, and then moved back to stocks. Everyone was speculating and no one was working. It was the height of lunacy. Obviously the economy was overheating.

    A responsible leader would have engineered a soft landing. Cool off the economy. But Mahathir did the opposite. He announced even more mega-projects, in the midst of other projects ongoing at that time. He even spoke about us running a zero per cent inflation on the back of 10 per cent growth … indefinitely.

    We were already running 22 consecutive months of deficit. The ringgit became indefensible. When you spend so much more than you earn, in the long run, you become very vulnerable. True enough, the crisis struck the country. But Mahathir did an even more irresponsible thing: he sacked Anwar, triggering a political crisis.

    Mahathir’s policies and actions leading up to the crisis, and during the crisis, have shown him to be irresponsible and incompetent. Mahathir should be condemned for his failure to avert the crisis, rather than praised for his actions to “cure” the crisis.

    On the eve of his departure, Mahathir defended his legacy. He said, amongst other things, that the failure of Perwaja was due to “mismanagement”, not the failure of the heavy-industries policy.

    Mahathir is only half-right. The failure of Perwaja, and all the rest, is due to both mismanagement and policy. Both of which can and must be blamed on Mahathir. Why?

    A powerful leader must take the blame for such failures, if he/she were to take the credit for other successes. It is a well-known fact that most of the top management of these companies were hand-picked, or at least vetted, by Mahathir.

    It is also well-known that Mahathir has a fondness for micro-managing his pet projects. It is common for corporate directions to be influenced by him. For example, when Tajuddin owned MAS, Mahathir used it as a pawn to aggressively push his South-South agenda. MAS started flying to all the unprofitable routes: Argentina, South Africa, Turkey, Mozambique, etc. Tajuddin obviously cannot say “no”.

    But to offset losses, MAS ingeniously lobbied for higher domestic tariffs, citing “loss making” domestic routes (as if the Mahathir-approved Argentina flights weren’t loss-making). But now, or course we know that even domestic routes can make money as shown by AirAsia.

    Mahathir’s heavy-industries policy is grandiose, not reality. Why start with such huge projects? Those of us who have worked umpteen years in large organisations would know the complexity and difficulty in running such huge and complex operations. A car manufacturing operation consists of thousands of complex processes. Has to be done right all the time. We have no history of such manufacturing. Why not start with something less complex and with less risk ?

    Malaysia does not need to own a car industry. We do not need to own a steel industry. We do not need to own an electrical appliances industry. We do not need to own a software industry. What do we need?

    We need to focus on petro-chemicals, tourism, oil palm and other agricultural outputs, food products, wood products, rubber products, cruise and merchant shipping. We need to go downstream. We need to undertake research and development in those areas. We need to use satellite imaging to detect spread of pests in oil palm plantations.

    We need to automate, create uniquely designed vehicles for use in the plantations to increase efficiency. To create the best clones. To write software for managing plantations. To make plantation management a sought-after career in this country. To pay our plantation workers decent salaries, not one that depends on the weather. To create thousands of middle- and end-products, from cooking oil, margarine, coffee, to Vitamin E extracts.

    If we do need a role model, perhaps it should be Nestle and Ikea, not Mitsubishi and Kawasaki. Because at the end of the day, it makes more sense for our country to capitalise on our natural advantage, historical strengths and intimate understanding of oil palm, wood and food, rather than steel and cars. There lies Mahathir’s greatest mistake.

    While he focused on this beloved heavy industries, Mahathir ignored other industries, calling them “sunset industries” amongst other things. The term “sunset industries” was fashionable then but you don’t hear it mentioned these days. People now know that there is no such thing as a “sunset industry”.

    If you check out the website of the state of California, you will find that agriculture is the second largest industry in the state, a place that has the highest concentration of high-tech industries in the world. Of course, California has Mediterranean weather suitable for certain crops, and producers turn that into a very lucrative business (helped by high technology, excellent marketing, sustained research and cheap Mexican labour).

    Sounds familiar? The amount of time, money and effort that Mahathir wasted on his failed pet projects could have been used to modernise and expand Malaysia’s agrifood industry and turn the country into a major producer and exporter in this part of the world.

    Our country has so much natural wealth. All we need is to add our intellect, some discipline, lots of unity, a dash of hard work, and plenty of common sense, to succeed as a nation. And yes, some humility.

    We don’t need a car industry, a failed steel company, Twin Towers (which isn’t even the tallest anymore), an empty stadium, giant dam, ‘Malaysia boleh’, and seldom-used race-track.

    Mahathir has shown us what not to do. Let us all learn from his mistakes. Let’s not repeat it. That’s the legacy.

    Comment by GH Kok — March 3, 2012 @ 11:59 AM | Reply

  16. Mahathir is a person who would rather destroy the whole nation in his efforts to avoid being proven wrong than accept the fact that he made many mistakes that have cost and will continue to cost the whole country dearly.

    Criticism of others comes easy to him, but he can’t take it himself.

    Certainly he can make life miserable for his successors and no one has yet been able to deal with him as he deserves. If there is any person, other than Daim Zainuddin, who deserves to be imprisoned under the ISA for economic sabotage and endangering the security of the nation, it is Mahathir.

    The New Economic Policy was definitely abused to the maximum by him and a selected group of cronies in UMNO, chief of whom of course was Daim Zainuddin, the man who singlehandedly siphoned out the most of Malaysia’s wealth and caused the country and many of its institutions to suffer massive losses.

    Mahathir and Daim never really allowed the NEP to address poverty and raise the level of Malay participation in the economy, except for the few (themselves included of course) whom they selected and were able to collaborate with them at the expense of the vast majority of Malaysians (especially Malays) whom they were able to dupe.

    There was no mistake in the deliberate pattern in which Mahathir & Daim systematically accumulated their own enormous wealth and for their cronies and proxies “through the money-making schemes hatched under the guise of the NEP”. This was plain looting that they managed to disguise and control through their tight grip on power and the regulatory apparatus of the government. The so-called privatization (in fact piratization) of government assets to a few favoured Malay entrepreneurs was actually a sham.

    In reality it was not so much that they were “not able to deal with the ‘instant success’ or the stress of big time business” that many succumbed to debt during the 1998 Asian financial crisis. They were only proxies for Daim and Mahathir, who had managed to convince them that what they were doing was in the national interest and the interests of the Malays and UMNO in particular. Under Daim’s and Mahathir’s directives, they facilitated the stripping and looting of the very businesses that they were supposed to nuture, supposedly for the purposes of maintaining the power of UMNO and its hold over the nation but actually to enrich Daim and Mahathir (whether they realized it or not).

    They were rewarded handsomely for their roles in these schemes, but ultimately at the expense of their own credibility and capacity. It would prove impossible for them to make enough to cover the money siphoned out of these businesses by Daim and Mahathir, thereby necessitating the massive government bailouts.

    This coupled with the pooling of wealth in the hands of a few “left the ordinary Malays and Malaysians with just a few crumbs to share amongst themselves”, but not many realised it at the time (which was really borrowed time), since Daim and Mahathir were able to mask what they were doing through the creation of artificial and shallow economic booms and progress (especially through the use of petroleum revenues stolen from Sarawak and Sabah).

    Indeed it has now blown up to today’s red-hot disputes about social and economic fairness, but there are still many especially in UMNO/BN, who refuse to see or cannot see the real cause of the dire situation that Malaysia is in today. The more delusional among them even go to the extent of denying that Malaysia is on the brink of bankruptcy, which is where the doings of Daim and Mahathir in particular and UMNO in general have put us all.

    So now we find, in times of rapidly rising prices and costs of living but without commensurate income, that “there is not enough money for scholarships, education, healthcare, employment and welfare for everyone, even the Malays who have been repeatedly told by Mahathir’s Umno party that they will get priority”.

    It is not so much that Mahathir chose the wrong people for the wrong jobs or that he trusted the wrong people. Mahathir and Daim worked together to pick people who could be manipulated, coerced, intimidated or blackmailed into doing things that suited their evil plans. Many of these people were hauled to court to settle debts not really of their own doing or making but incurred at the behest of Daim and Mahathir or as a result of their schemes.

    The result of course is that “only Daim Zainudin remains ‘filthy’ rich”. Mahathir was not really had, since he was together with Daim a significant beneficiary of all these schemes, but he may not have realised the full extent of what Daim had siphoned off and that this combined with his own grandiose schemes would place such a great burden on the nation. The self-deception of a megalomaniac like Mahathir and the mass deception that he perpetrated on the Malaysian people is something that all Malaysians will be paying for through their nose for the forseeable future.

    Mahathir could have foreseen that the National Debt would become as high as it is today (over RM450 billion) if he had really bothered to count the cost of all the nefarious schemes that he and Daim implemented. Mahathir was never responsible enough to think about the future and the consequences of any of his and Daim’s actions. That he never saved a sen for Malaysia for a rainy day could generously be seen as a “mistake”, but should rather be seen as gross criminal neglect and dereliction of duty (if he really had any sense of duty).

    Mahathir had no real economic policy to speak of. His economic policy was based on his tentative opinions and speculative viewpoints, not forgetting his and Daim’s own exploitative shenanigans and crooked schemes. His “skewed understanding of the economy” was more a character defect than a mistake.

    Mahathir’s ego and conscious desire to be a dictator was also not a mistake but a defect of character. Mahathir. Daim and UMNO/BN never lost their integrity since they never had any in the first place. As a result they could hardly be well-intentioned, except in a kind of “by the way” manner.

    UMNO has always been racist. Its very name betrays its racist origins and nature, so much so that its membership abandoned its own founder when he tried to change it into a multi-racial party. Mahathir exploited this to the fullest. He was both a product of UMNO’s racism as well as a proponent and ideologue of it. UMNO Malays generally didn’t take much convincing that what (Mahathir and Daim and their other leaders) had done was necessary and in their interests. They have kept themselves deceived until today in spite of all the evidence that they choose to ignore, mainly because of their own racial and racist hang-ups, to the extent that many of them (Mahathir being chief of them all) deliberately suppressed their real (Indian) racial origins to become more Malay than the “real” Malays themselves.

    Corruption was tolerated and exploited by Mahathir himself to maintain his power in UMNO and over the nation. While pretending to be “clean, efficient and trustworthy” (“bersih, cekap, amanah”), he allowed those he wished to control to get trapped in their own web of corruption so that they were not only no threat to him but could be made to do whatever he wanted.

    That corruption has now spread so wide that it threatens the very fabric of the nation and UMNO has not been able to come to grips with it. In fact UMNO seems to be quite comfortable wallowing in it at the expense of the nation.

    For UMNO to survive, it has to get rid of Mahathir once and for all, and for Malaysia to survive (even if without Sarawak and Sabah), it has to rid itself of UMNO.

    Comment by Al Tugauw — March 3, 2012 @ 6:22 AM | Reply

    • I agree with your words: character defect. I suspect it is inherited in the male gene.

      Comment by simon Thompson — April 6, 2015 @ 9:51 AM | Reply

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