Sunday, August 01, 2010


Contributed by rhg on Thursday, August 31 @ 01:03:29 MYT
Topic: MEDIA

Raja Petra Kamarudin

Jeff Ooi has apologised to P. Gunasegaram because one of Screenshots’ Bloggers posted a comment asking that this Group Executive Editor of The Edge be shot. On 20 June 2006, Gunasegaram shot Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad 22 times in an article called ‘Gunasegaram's 22 questions for DrM’. It looks like Gunasegaram likes to shoot others but takes offence when anyone shoots him back. Well, Malaysia Today would now like to shoot Gunasegaram by replying to his 22 questions and we will definitely not apologise like Screenshots did.

DATUK Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is only in his third year as Prime Minister but his predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad already has four questions for his administration to answer. They relate to Proton's sale of MV Agusta; the exit of the former Proton chief executive officer; approved permits for cars; and scrapping of the bridge project.

While we would like to hear a better explanation from the government than what has been given so far, Abdullah should not be the only one answering questions. I am sure we all have questions for Mahathir too - on how he ran the country for 22 years. Here's a list of 22 questions or rather 22 groups of questions we would like to ask Mahathir, one for each of his 22 years in power:

1: On clean government. You came to power in 1981 and introduced the slogan "bersih, cekap dan amanah" (clean, efficient and trustworthy). What did you do to further that? Did you make the Anti-Corruption Agency more independent and effective? Did you ensure that the police and judiciary did their job properly and reduce corruption in their ranks? Did you ensure that ministers and chief ministers not have income beyond their legal means? How many big guns were prosecuted for corruption offences during your long tenure? What happened to "bersih, cekap dan amanah"?

Shot 1: Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, as you said, is in his third year in office. He has led the country through one general election in 2004 and a Cabinet reshuffle soon after that. Why has Abdullah not cleaned up the government and why have none of the 18 high profile corruption cases announced by the government some time ago been pursued yet? Why did Abdullah appoint all these corrupt Ministers as candidates in the 2004 general election and reappoint them as Ministers plus even recalled to service some who had already been retired off in spite of their black track record and corruption allegations hanging over their heads? Why did Abdullah not right the alleged wrongs perpetuated by Mahathir now that he has the chance to do so?

2. Press freedom. Your criticism of the government got plenty of coverage in the local media whereas during your time, criticisms against you by two former prime ministers were muted in the mainstream newspapers. Editors in Umno-linked newspapers too were removed during your time for not toeing the line. What did you do to advance the cause of responsible press freedom?

Shot 2: The various draconian laws muzzling the media, printing press and other engines of free speech are still in place. Since Abdullah came to power he has had many opportunities to repeal or amend these laws in Parliament to allow for more free speech and freedom of expression. Why has Abdullah not removed all these laws limiting or restricting a free media and freedom of expression?

3. Proton. You went ahead with the national car project in 1983 despite a number of experts disagreeing with you, especially with respect to lack of economies of scale. Isn't it true that Proton's profits over the last 20 years came out of vastly higher prices that the Malaysian public has to pay to subsidise Proton, resulting in considerable hardship for Malaysians who need cars because of the poor public transport system? More lately, why was it necessary for Proton to buy a stake in a failed Italian motorcycle manufacturer when it could not even produce cars competitively?

Shot 3: The British and US automotive industry requires government protection as well. Chrysler in fact was even given a massive multi-billion US Congress loan to help it stay afloat. Why is the British and American public being made to pay to support the automotive industries in the largest economies in the world which believe in free enterprise and survival of the fittest? Why not just let these industries collapse and allow the Japanese, Koreans and Taiwanese to monopolise the western automotive markets rather than spend public money to prop up a struggling home-grown automotive industry?

4. Heavy industries. Why did you push into heavy industries such as steel and cement in the 1980s, ignoring studies which suggested developing natural resource-based industries instead? They caused major problems and billions of ringgit in losses.

Shot 4: The countries that control the market are not the producers of raw materials but the producers of goods and services. It is proven that it is not the producers of rubber who make the money. Furthermore, the price of rubber fluctuates and is subject to the law of supply and demand. Those who make money from rubber are the tyre producers like Dunlop, Michelin, etc., who locate their factories in the countries that produce automobiles. When Malaysia went through a period of construction boom, there was a shortage of steel and cement and Malaysia was at the mercy of importers. Only when Malaysia embarked on its own steel and cement industries did the supply stabilise and prices became manageable. Are you suggesting Malaysia go back to planting rubber and stop all other forms of development?

5. Population. Why did you encourage a population of 70 million for Malaysia and change the name of the National Family Planning Board to the National Population Development Board? How do you expect poor people to take care of five, six or more children? What kind of quality of life can they provide to their children?

Shot 5: Industrialised countries like Korea and Japan are successful exporters and can export cheaply because they have a large population that can support a domestic market for its good and services. This enables countries like Korea and Japan to export cheaply where its goods sold overseas is far cheaper than that sold locally. Economies of scale are achieved in countries like Korea and Japan because of it large population and this helps these countries export on a material-plus-labour cost basis because the large local market has already covered the other indirect costs. The incidence of hardcore poor in these countries has been eliminated though they were once as poor as Malaysia plus suffered devastation brought on by wars because the successful industries created jobs and when the population is fully employed there is no longer any hardcore poverty.

6. Immigration. Why did you allow hordes of people to immigrate, mainly from Indonesia, in such an unregulated way that there are as many or more illegal immigrants than legal ones now, accounting for some two million or more people? Did you not realise that this would cause serious social problems?

Shot 6: In the pre-Merdeka years up to the 1950s and 1960s, Malaysian Indians and Malaysian Chinese worked on construction sites, in rubber estates, tin mines, etc, while Malays planted padi, became fishermen, drivers, maids, etc. Because education was extended to every Malaysian, the high number of uneducated Malays, Indians and Chinese were reduced and now almost eliminated. Today, it is no longer possible to find Malays, Chinese and Indians who would want to tap rubber, gather palm oil, mix cement, lay bricks, etc., so the only way to develop these industries is to allow uneducated people from the poorer neighbouring nations to come in to take over these jobs. This happened in England in the 1960s when no British wanted to sweep the streets or clean the toilets and the salaries of menial labourers were as high as that of an educated bank officer. The US too needed the poor uneducated immigrants from Mexico to do the ‘dirty’ jobs. Western Europe took in the poor from Eastern Europe. West Germany had their poor cousins from East Germany. Today, in many of these countries, the immigrant population outnumber the ‘locals’ and in some cities they have Indian, Pakistani, Mexican, Cuban, Chinese, etc, towns where you would be hard-pressed to find an Orang Putih walking the streets. Malaysia would not have been able to develop to the stage it has today if we had to depend on locals to do all the jobs. We owe our development to the labourers from the poorer nations. We should thank them for the progress we are enjoying today.

7. On his first deputy. Some five years after you came to power, there were serious rifts between you and your deputy Datuk (now Tun) Musa Hitam. What was the cause of these problems and was it because you were heavy-handed and did not consult your ministers?

Shot 7: Musa Hitam fought against Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for the vacant post of Deputy President of Umno. Musa won. Tengku Razaleigh then challenged Musa a second time around and Musa won again. Musa then wanted Tengku Razaleigh sacked as Finance Minister. Instead, Mahathir appointed (turun pangkat) him as Trade and Industry Minister. This made Musa angry so he resigned from his post of Deputy Prime Minister. That was the cause.

8. On the first serious Umno split. When Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Musa took on you and Tun Ghafar Baba at the Umno general assembly of 1987, it caused a serious split in Umno, with you winning by a very narrow margin (761 to 718). Why did you not seek to heal the rift in Umno post the elections? Instead, you purged Umno and its successor Umno Baru of those who opposed you, causing an unprecedented split in Malay unity.

Shot 8: It was Team B who took Umno to court and got it declared illegal. They then applied to form a new party, Umno Malaysia, three days before Ghafar also applied to form Umno Baru. It was team B who made the move to close down Umno and then made the first move to register a new party which later became known as Semangat 46. Umno Baru was formed in reaction to this move by Team B who already by then had their own party and refused to join what they declared as Mahathir's Umno.

9. Operasi Lalang. Why did you have to resort to this move in October 1987, when you used wide powers of detention under the Internal Security Act to detain over 100 people, close down four newspapers and cause a wave of fear throughout the country? Was it to consolidate your tenuous hold on power then by using an oppressive law?

Shot 9: MCA, UMNO and the newspapers were fanning racial sentiments calling for a ‘resurrection’ of May 13. Many of Mahathir’s own people and loyal supporters like Ahmad Sebi Abu Bakar were also detained during Operasi Lalang. Mahatheir tried to intervene and asked the IGP then to spare Ahmad Sebi but the police told him that he has to be taken in because he was one of those instigators of a race riot. Mahathir had to back off and allow the police to do their work in nipping the second May 13 in the bud. The police actually told Mahathir that they must do what they must do and it would be better if Mahathir did not interfere because the Prime Minister too is not exempted from ISA. (The 60 days detention does not need the Home Minister’s signature so even the Home Minister can be detained. Only the two years detention in Kamunting requires the Minister’s signature).

10. Judiciary. What was your motive to take action in 1988 to remove the then Lord President and several Supreme Court judges from their positions under allegations of judicial misconduct, a move which was heavily criticised by the Bar Council and other bodies? Was it because you needed more compliant judges whose rulings would not threaten your position of power in a number of cases in court? Was this the first step in dismantling the judiciary's role as a system of checks and balances against the legislature and the executive? What have you to say to repeated assertions by many, including prominent ex-chief justices, who maintain that this led to the erosion of judicial independence?

Shot 10: There are already moves to resurrect this matter and get to the bottom of things so we leave it to the Commission of Inquiry to reply to this.

11. Education. You presided over the education system at an important part of its transformation first as Education Minister in the 1970s, then as Prime Minister. Would it be correct to surmise therefore that you were also responsible for its decline during those years? Why did you not spend more money and resources to ensure that our education system was excellent and continued to improve but instead spent billions on other showpiece projects? Why did you allow our national school system, which is the ideal place to develop ties among young Malaysians, to become so divisive that today, 90% of those who attend national schools come from only one race while the rest have opted out?

Shot 11: I will not reply to this because to do so would implicate Anwar Ibrahim and I would not want anyone accusing me of embarking on an Anwar Ibrahim bashing exercise.

12. Former finance minister Tun Daim Zainuddin. Why did you give this one man so much power? And you have not given a satisfactory explanation why he left government the second time around. Did it have anything to do with the forced consolidation of banks? Why did the government buy back Malaysian Airline System (MAS) shares at RM8 apiece in 2000 from Tan Sri Tajudin Ramli when the market price was less than half that?

Shot 12: The fallout between Mahathir and Daim over the bank consolidation exercise has already been covered in Terence Gomez’s piece featured in Malaysia Today. The consolidation of the banks was necessary as a step to face Globalisation. Once banks like Citibank are allowed to branch out, the smaller banks would all fall by the wayside. Banks like Citibank are bigger than Malaysia, let alone the small Malaysian banks. On the MAS issue, in a buy-over of any company, many factors are taken into consideration. One is market capitalisation, which is what you are talking about. Another is net worth, which the share price may not reflect. Third is the earning potential, say over ten years or so. Also considered is goodwill, where at times the name alone can be worth billions and is an intangible asset based on public perception and not on fixed assets. Companies would pay a lot of money just for the name. Taking the goodwill, potential earnings, undervalued assets, etc, added to the value, a company can be worth many times its share price. Share prices are after all speculative and can be rigged by punters. National asset or national pride is another thing considered as having value and is another intangible ‘asset’ which buyers would pay for. SIA can be sold for billions on just its name alone even before taking its asset value and other factors into consideration.

13. Cronyism and patronage. Did you not encourage cronyism and patronage by dishing out major projects to a few within the inner circle? People such as Tan Sri Halim Saad (the Renong group and toll roads, telecommunications and so on), Tajudin (mobile telephone group TRI and MAS), Tan Sri Amin Shah Omar (the failed PSC Industries and multi-billion ringgit naval dockyard contracts) and Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing (Ekran and the Bakun Dam), to mention just a few?

Shot 13: The concept of Malaysia Incorporated launched in the early days of Mahathir’s tenure of Prime Minister was for the government to work with the private sector in developing Malaysia. Whenever the government is not able to handle any development, the private sector would be supported instead to undertake this function. Under the Malaysia Incorporated concept, it was publicly declared that all those businessmen with potential and who can handle the job would be supported -- and there is no problem if they become rich and prosperous, as long as they are able to help develop Malaysia, create jobs for Malaysians, and pay tax on the profits their businesses make. It was impossible to expect the government to develop Malaysia single-handedly. Where the government cannot manage, then the private sector would be given that task and the government would cooperate with the private sector and become its partner. The North-South Highway was one example that the government could not embark on but the private sector could, so the private sector was given the privatisation of the highway. Today, without that highway, it would be impossible to drive from Kuala Lumpur to Perlis in less than a full day and it would take two days to drive from Perlis to Johor.

14. Privatisation. Why did you allow privatisation to take place in such a manner that the most profitable parts of government operations were given away? Toll roads had guaranteed toll increases and compensation in the event traffic projections were not met. Independent power producers had contracts that guaranteed them profits at the expense of Tenaga Nasional.

Shot 14: This has also been answered in Shot 13 above. The private sector which is profit-motivated would not want to take on any lose-making development. This, the government has to do as a service to the nation. Only those that make money would attract the interest of the private sector. But just because the private sector makes money does not mean if the government does it then it would also make money. The private sector is trained to make money while the government is not. If the government does it then the government has to fund it and if it loses money there would be no benefit to the country. When the private sector does it they must make sure it makes money because they have to borrow to fund the project and they must repay these loans. The country not only gets development but also earns tax revenue as well, plus creates job opportunities.

15. Tun Ghafar Baba. Although Ghafar had the highest number of votes among Umno vice-presidents when Tun Hussein Onn became Prime Minister in 1976, you, who got the lowest number of votes, were chosen as Hussein's deputy. Yet, when you called upon Ghafar to be your deputy in 1986 when you fell out with Musa, he obliged, helping you to win the Umno presidency. Yet, you and your supporters did little to back him up when he was challenged for the deputy presidency in 1993 by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Can we say that you stabbed him in the back? And what about Hussein, the man who picked you as his successor? He died not as a member of Umno as he had refused to join your Umno Baru.

Shot 15: Onn Jaafar, Hussein’s father and the founder of Umno also died outside Umno, as did Tunku Abdul Rahman, the First Prime Minister and Bapa Merdeka. Mahathir would probably also now die outside Umno if the move to sack him succeeds. Ghafar backed off and decided not to fight Anwar when the latter received nominations from almost all the 25 Umno Sabah divisions because each nomination gave Anwar ten bonus votes and Ghafar knew he had lost even before the race began. Anwar went ahead and challenged Ghafar against Mahathir’s advice and it was rumoured he spent RM250 million to get his Sabah nominations while Ghafar did not spend any money and refused to be the Number Two if he had to fight for it. He was prepared to be Number Two only if the members wanted him and only if he did not need to fight for the job. If he had to fight for it then he did not want it and Anwar knew this. If Mahathir backed Ghafar against Anwar then there was a probability that Anwar would have turned on Mahathir as well, which he of course did later.

16. Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Did you move against him because he was a threat to your position in 1998? Did you use the entire government machinery at your disposal to get him sentenced? Do you think he got a fair trial? Don't you think the country suffered terribly because of nothing more than a power struggle involving the two of you?

Shot 16: Anwar was the one who moved against Mahathir and all Mahathir did was defend his position. This is politics. It was not wrong for Anwar to make his move against Mahathir is spite of the former being where he was because of the latter and that he would not have been in Umno, let alone in the Cabinet, if not because of Mahathir. It was equally not wrong for Mahathir to defend himself. On Anwar’s trial I would agree and the fact that I headed the Free Anwar Campaign for six years till the day he was released is testimony to this. On the matter of power struggle, this is the blood of politics. Where there is politics there are power struggles and one cannot play politics unless one is prepared to face a power struggle. The first murder in Biblical history was the result of a power struggle, the politics of who should be Number One.

17. Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Was it really necessary to spend RM10 billion on a showpiece airport at Sepang when Subang airport could have been so easily expanded?

Shot 17: They said the same thing about the Subang Airport when Tunku Abdul Rahman first built it. Later, everyone said how wise he was and that he should have built a bigger airport because the Subang Airport eventually became too small and people missed their flights because they were caught in a jam and could not get to the airport in time to catch their flight. By the time the KLIA becomes too small and jammed, the cost would be considered cheap in relation to the cost of building another bigger airport or the cost of extending the ‘old’ and ‘outdated’ KLIA. KLIA was built when construction costs were still very low. Today, it can no longer be built at that price and if it was not built then we would still be depending on the Subang Airport, which certainly can no longer accommodate all the flights. KLIA was not built for today but for tomorrow, but at today’s price. The area around Subang was too small for the airport to be extended to the size of KLIA

18. Putrajaya. What is the justification for spending RM20 billion on a grandiose government city at a time when office space was available in Kuala Lumpur? Could the money not have been put to better use, such as improving educational resources?

Shot 18: Kuala Lumpur cannot accommodate the expansion. It is already too congested. What available space are you taking about? Where is it? Even the roads and highways are jammed and there is no longer any space to widen the roads. If Putrajaya was not built and Kuala Lumpur has to become home to the Federal Government, the city would become like Bangkok where a couple of years ago it used to take four to five hours to reach your destination and those who planned to fly the next day would check into a hotel the night before just so that they would not miss their flight.

19. Government-linked companies. Why did you not make efforts to improve the performance of GLCs? Why did you allow funds such as the Employees Provident Fund and Kumpulan Wang Amanah Pencen to take up dubious investments? These have led to hundreds, if not billions, of ringgit in losses to these funds.

Shot 19: Policy decisions are made by the independent board and investment committees of fund managers such as EPF, etc. These people should be identified and shot (not in the literal sense of course).

20. Islamisation. At the end of your tenure after your falling out with Anwar, you criticised the extreme elements in Islam of taking control of government institutions and doing things that divided Muslims from non-Muslims. But isn't it true you started it all with your "Menyerap Nilai-Nilai Islam Dalam Pentadbiran Negara" policy of 1981 when you lured Anwar into Umno to help you promote it? And why did you declare that Malaysia was an Islamic state when it is clearly enshrined in our Federal Constitution as the wishes of our founding fathers that Malaysia should be a secular country given our multi-racial and multi-religious composition? Were you trying to reverse the policy of the nation's founding leaders?

Shot 20: Mahathir said that Malaysia is an Islamic country. An Islamic State means that Malaysia adopts and implements Islamic laws, which it does not so it is not an Islamic State. Mahathir did not agree to Islamic laws so he does not agree to an Islamic State. The Federal Constitution of Malaysia says that Islam is the religion of the country, not of Muslims, but of the country. Mahathir did not lure Anwar into Umno. Tengku Razaleigh did and Mahathir at first objected to it. But Tengku Razaleigh persisted and eventually Mahathir relented, though reluctantly.

21. Approved permits. You blamed International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz for the AP fiasco. As we recall, you appointed her and kept her at the ministry since 1986 until you stepped down in 2003 and never once complained or took action over the issuance of APs by the ministry. Indeed, she was embroiled in some controversy over bumiputera share allotment but you stood by her. So why make it an issue now? If you say you were not aware back then, what does that tell us?

Shot 21: The issuance of APs increased AFTER Mahathir retired and even people who had no car franchise or showrooms were given APs, which was not the policy in Mahathir’s time. The AP policy was to assist Bumiputera car dealers survive in the auto industry. But they must possess a franchise and produce a valid franchise agreement with a proper business setup, showroom, etc. Now, even dormant companies owned by the niece of the Minister that is dormant and not operating and does not own any franchise can get an AP for a franchise it does not yet own but got only after it got the APs.

22. Money politics. Why did money politics (vote buying) in Umno become such a big issue during your tenure as Umno president? Why were you so powerless to do anything about it when the solutions were so simple?

Shot 22: In the past, 70% of Umno grassroots leaders were government servants and teachers who did not have any money -- so the money politics was still there but merely confined to kenduri and other cheaper methods. Later, more and more businessmen took over the leadership of Umno right down to the branch level. These are people with money so the money politics became more substantial and no longer just cheap kenduri. Anwar is said to be the ‘inventor’ of big-time money politics when he challenged Ghafar. But of course this is only a rumour and all those who allegedly received millions from Anwar would never admit it -- that is if it is true and not malicious allegations from the Ghafar camp.

There are other questions, of course, but that makes our list of 22. In the same way that Mahathir hopes the government will answer his questions, we hope that Mahathir will answer ours.

Last shot: Let us have those other questions as well please

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