A Quick Two Day History Lesson On Mahathir
I had actually made a conscious decision to either refrain from writing or talk less about Dr Mahathir Mohamad in this column since last year.
For one, much has been said and written about our former two-time prime minister and two, I also feel that there is no point in continuing to lambast the grand old man.
We keep on repeating our grievances and negative vibes against Mahathir; so much so that at times, the nonagenarian has my sympathy, too, for the unkind and harsh words used by many in their critiques against him.
Over the past six months, I had written only one article with Mahathir as the key subject. This one is my second in half a year and should not be taken as yet another Mahathir-thrashing piece but as a little history lesson for what it’s worth.
Over the past week, I was hospitalised with an old medical condition that returned to haunt me.
A dear friend kept me company and the subject of his long-drawn conversation over my two days of recuperation was Mahathir. Some issues on Mahathir brought up happened to coincide with what was to occur or had just been announced over the same period this past week.
This is what I find interesting and hence, worth putting to paper.
My friend was telling me that at one stage of Mahathir’s first premiership, he did not seem to have learnt anything from the Special Branch judging from the way the PM dealt with the Communist Party of Malaya and its leader, (the late) Chin Peng.
And last Thursday, the Special Branch Counter-Terrorism unit (E8) disclosed that a Malaysian man was arrested in January 2020 who later admitted to planning a lone wolf attack on several top government leaders as a show of support for the Islamic State, an extremist group.
Bukit Aman Special Branch assistant director Azman Omar said the man had admitted he wanted to attack Mahathir, DAP’s Lim Guan Eng, Amanah lawmaker Mujahid Yusof Rawa and then attorney-general Tommy Thomas.
This is the first coincidence – the Special Branch and Mahathir.
Communist soldiers in action during the Malayan insurgency
My friend, quite a history buff, also related to me that the earliest members of the elite Special Branch were ethnic Chinese, principally because one needs a thief to catch a thief.
If one goes by the six volumes of the works of Dr Lee Chee Koh, one of the top leaders of the early Special Branch, his books chronicled how Malayan Chinese were recruited by the British and Malay superiors into the Special Branch to undertake various operations in areas where the Communists lurked.
The Communists were successfully defeated based on "winning the hearts and minds" of the people. Not by punitive actions or by ostracising the enemy.
Why tell this story now? The communist insurgency was officially over in 1989 when Malaysia agreed to allow the Communists to lay down their arms and return to society.
That was the gentleman's agreement between two opposing ideological foes who agreed to let bygones be bygones. We will cherish this great achievement of the Special Branch in defeating the communist threat in Malaysia without causing too much bloodshed.
Sadly, there was a time the Special Branch was also “misused” or “misguided” by Mahathir – the arrest and detention of Anwar Ibrahim come to mind.
“Tragic, as it is, while Malaysians can grow up, an old man who was made their prime minister twice still has this infantile fixation to rule as if he is our father of modernity; when he has lost all his legacy, both at home and abroad,” my friend, clearly not a Mahathir fan, retorted.
Another story that also played up coincidentally was about Mahathir’s early days in Umno – the period when he was deputy to then prime minister Hussein Onn.
Mahathir with former cabinet minister Rafidah Aziz and first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman in the eighties
My friend related that when Hussein became PM in 1976, he was in agreement with Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman that Mahathir was too brash and impatient as he (Mahathir) had already reached the age of 53 in 1979.
Then came what many believed to be one of Mahathir’s early treacheries in Umno. An ordinary party member, Sulaiman Palestine, was planted to challenge Hussein for the Umno presidency in 1979.
Sulaiman, believed to be put forward by cliques close to Mahathir to embarrass Hussein, surprisingly obtained 600 votes.
The coincidence? Umno is holding its latest general assembly this weekend with scheming and treacheries believed to be in full gear particularly against the leadership of its president, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Also this week, Mahathir’s first deputy prime minister in 1981, Musa Hitam, declared loudly in a TV interview that “[...] in politics, I don’t trust Mahathir”.
Now, this is Mahathir. Like it or not, our grand old man will remain relevant to Malaysian politics for as long as he’s still around. You might not think so. But to Mahathir, as long as he thinks he is still relevant (even if it’s only his own ego telling him that), it’s good enough for him.
If you do not like him, it’s your problem, not Mahathir’s. I have already accepted the fact that Mahathir will be around for quite a while yet.
Let him be, folks. - Mkini
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH is the author of Hijack in Malaysia: The Fall of Pakatan Harapan. Obtain autographed copies from [email protected]
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.
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