Monday, March 7, 2011

The Curious Case Of Dr M

Strange, the conversation Tom Plate has with Mahathir Mohamad in his second "Giants of Asia" book seems to be one sided. In response to his 9 faxed questions in "Dr Mahathir Defines His Muslim Religion", MM answered 7 with single words.

Maybe the frustration with the "iron censorship curtain" on his delayed memoir, snipping stuff away on grounds of national security, was throttling his loquacious second nature. This is the man best remembered by the West for his rants, against Soros and against Jews, which Plate dedicated a whole chapter in "The Anti-Semitism Controversy Never Dies". Throughout the chapters, with James Bond themed headings ("Die Another Way" for the 9/11 conspiracy has to be pure bad taste), Plate was playing the apologist for someone who can clearly speak for himself, without mincing words. Like he telling the author "the old guy's still in the saddle". When Plate was stumped, he added, "LKY is still there. He never lets go. I let go. He is keeping a lid on the purse strings. He controls them."

Or maybe the powerful police unleashed in Operation Lalang of October 1987 to quell alleged ethnic tensions, sweeping up opposition leaders and social activists, shutting down newspapers, unnerved him (check "The Men With The Golden Guns"). In the earlier chapter, Plate was saying there's no chance of the police getting out of hand, "Well, you're not in jail." To which came the curious rejoinder, "Not quite." Unlike Mahathir, Lee Kuan Yew can cast racist aspersions with "we can integrate all religions and races except Islam" without fear of a knock on the door at an unearthly hour of the night. Not with the Home Affairs Minister, Wong Kan Seng or Shanmugam, under the heavy thumb of his son in charge.

Stranger still are the forward messages at the beginning of the book. Instead of the usual fawning platitudes, the contributors harp on the less palatable episodes of Mahathir's 22 year reign. Proton, Perwaja, Putrajaya, everything but the kitchen sink is mentioned. Irony of ironies, the scant praise is from his nemesis across the causeway, "He was an outstanding Prime Minister of Malaysia. During his premiership of over 20 years, he changed Malaysia from an agricultural, placid society into an industrial, dynamic society."

Tom Plate deflects the critics of his hero worship by asking the well honed questions, "Have you ever met Dr Mahathir/( Lee Kuan Yew)?", "Ever been to Malaysia/ (Singapore)?" He has, but that hasn't helped to pierce the enigma or the iconoclast. You know the conversation hits a cul-de-sac when the writer runs out of steam and end with, "Alright, because I'm going to go with that."

22 comments:

  1. Mahatir, not unlike Nehru and Deng Xiao Peng, is a giant in asia because he was PM of a country with a vast hinterland a diverse population. Agreeing with the man's politics is a different kettle of fish altogether.

    Poor Kuan Yew will never be a giant because Spore is a tiny little island. Hob nobbing with great leaders and giving them advice, be it unsolicited or solicted, doesnt make one a giant of asia.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A man who dares fight giants is more respectable than one that cowers and seek protections from giants and worse carries the balls of the giants.

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  3. Unbelievable but true. For the first time in recorded history...Kuan Yew says he stands corrected. Is he actually admitting to a mistake?

    Kuan Yew according to a ST report says he stands corrected with respect to his remark that Malays are not integrating due to Islamic influence.

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  4. He knows he will lose the Malay Voters' votes.

    Now, it is the Malay Voters' turn to respond.

    Will they forgive and forget???

    patriot

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  5. People normaly don't stand corrected for no apparent reason. Certainly not this type of cunning people.

    Maybe it was all a political gimmick to begin with, to make the best out of the situation and score some political points.

    ReplyDelete
  6. LKY is no giant amongst men, just the biggest frog in his tiny pond.
    Hopping out of his pond, LKY thinks that by croaking louder when in the presence of other giant bullfrogs, he will be deemed a giant as well.

    And frankly, those malaysian chinese who sing LKY's praises really ought to thank their good fortune LKY was not borned a malay in malaysia.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dear Anon 2:21

    The first generation of Malaysian chinese rejected the PAP incursion in West Malaysia because they had their own parties and leaders. And Tengku Abdul Rahman was alert to Kuan Yew stirring dissension in the Msian chinese coalition within the Aliance.

    Kuan Yew to this day has a hard time accepting this rejection from Msian chinese. In fact, history might reveal that Kuan Yew's problems in Msia, and Spore's eventual departure from the federation may have not been, entirely, the result of agitation from the malay ultras but also to a very large extent Kuan Yew's poor showing in Msia due to his inability to win over Msian chinese political leaders.

    The present Msian chinese elite probably have not really strayed from the views of their older leaders. Some of their admiration for Kuan Yew is not substantial but the result of common courtesy and a sense of appreciation of Spore's growth (due largely to the sacrifices of Sporeans). Kuan Yew's self appointed sycophants however confuse courtesy and a sense of appreciation with vindication of their view that Kuan Yew was a great leader who was never allowed to display the full range of his abilities in a bigger platform. This may not be entirely accurate. Kuan Yew was given the chance in the late 50s and 60's in Msia. He was shown to be lacking in more ways than one. I sense this will be the verdict of history.

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