Malaysia's misfortunes and misery - Part 2
If only Najib had not traded his votes and Anwar had joined Razaleigh …
by K George
Please support our work by buying a copy of our print publication, Aliran Monthly, from your nearest news-stand. Better still take out a subscription now. If you prefer to read our web-based edition, please support our work and make a donation.
When the court was satisfied that ineligible delegates had participated in the UMNO general assembly, the judge had no choice but to declare UMNO an unlawful society - which resulted in UMNO, the party dominating the BN coalition, being deregistered under the Societies Act. The judge arrived at this decision because UMNO had clearly contravened its constitution.
The lawyer representing the “UMNO 11” responded that his clients only wanted the elections to be declared null and void without declaring UMNO an illegal society.
Immediately, the UMNO lawyer stood up and submitted that his clients had no objection to the judge’s findings. In fact, he was indeed pushing for UMNO to be declared an illegal society earlier on – obviously he must have been instructed by the UMNO leadership to push for the deregistration of UMNO.
Thus, UMNO, the political party of the vast majority of Malays, met with its “sudden demise”.
Immediately, Mahathir, the man without a party, resigned the chairmanship of the BN. But he held on to the post of PM. This was the first time in our history when an ordinary MP without a party, held the post of PM.
Within days, the constitution for a new party, namely “UMNO Baru” (New UMNO) was submitted to the Registrar of Societies. It was a Saturday and on Monday the new party was registered. It was a miraculously efficient performance by a civil servant in Malaysia deserving to go down in the Malaysian Book of Records as the fastest registration of a political party!
Dr. Mahathir unsurprisingly was chosen as the protem president of UMNO Baru. A quick BN Council Meeting was called, presided by Dato Dr Ling Leong Sik, to admit UMNO Baru as a component member of the Coalition, following which Dr Ling vacated his seat as Chairman of the BN to enable Dr Mahathir to resume his previous position. This episode must also go down in our history as the shortest term of tenure for a BN Chairman.
Immediately, a “Great Wall of China” was built around UMNO Baru to ensure that none of Mahathir’s political enemies could enter the gates of the new party. That included the Father of the Nation, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Hussein Onn, our third PM, Tengku Razaleigh and many others. Ironically, when Tunku passed away the leader of UMNO expressed regret that Tunku was not an UMNO member!
"Hang the judges"
Having secured his position as the PM and BN Chairman, Mahathir resorted to the charade of criticising the judges apparently for no known reason. Once he even said, “Hang the Judges”.
Disgusted, Lord President Tun Salleh Abas with the backing of 20 judges, which included the Chief Justice (Malaya) Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Omar and Supreme Court Judge Tan Sri Hashim Yeop Abdullah Sani, addressed a letter to the Yang diPertuan Agong hoping that the PM would be advised not to publically scandalise the judges.
The PM took offence to this development and urged the Agong to set up a Tribunal to take disciplinary action against the Lord President.
Justice Hamid Omar, the then Chief Justice of Malaya and next in line to succeed Tun Salleh Abas as LP, was appointed the chairman of the Tribunal. It was against the established principles of the Rule of Law and of Natural Justice - simply because if Salleh Abas was removed, Hamid Omar, being the next senior-most judge, was automatically eligible to fill the vacant position. As for Mahathir, it appeared that he was either ignorant or pretended to be ignorant of those principles.
Salleh Abas registered his protest against the composition of the Tribunal and refused to attend its proceedings. And, as was expected, the Tribunal went on with its deliberations in spite of his absence and recommended the dismissal of Salleh Abas, who was subsequently replaced by Hamid Omar as LP.
For a more detailed account, please refer to the 5-part series of articles in Aliran Monthly by Datuk George Seah, who was one of the judges suspended during the judicial crisis in 1988. (See AM Vol 24 Nos 4-8)
Mahathir succeded in instilling fear in the judges. To him, rule of law means rule BY law. And any law - however repugnant - passed by Parliament, where the BN commands a huge majority, has to be accepted by the people - no questions asked. The then PM did not seem to understand the concept of the separation of power. To Mahathir, internationally and universally recognised concepts of human rights and democracy were unacceptable.
Fundamental liberties guaranteed by Articles 5 to 13 of our Supreme Law have been subjected to numerous restrictions and curtailments especially those pertaining to the holding of public meetings and the setting up of associations. Perhaps Malaysia is the only “parliamentary democracy” to restrict and control public rallies even during elections.
Shackling other institutions
The fear of the ISA pervades the nation; the UMNO Baru of Mahathir has replaced the original UMNO of the Malays. The unjust dismissal of Salleh Abas and two senior judges has instilled fear in the Judiciary. Consequently, the integrity and the independence of the judiciary has suffered a serious setback.
That was not all. Mahathir’s influence pervaded the Police, the Anti-Corruption Agency and the Attorney General’s chambers. As for the Elections Commission, it has never been independent since 1981.
The AG is believed to have been pressured not to press charges on Rafidah Aziz and Rahim Tamby Chik for their alleged corruption. Evidence was adduced in court that Mahathir told the former ACA chief, Shafie Yahaya, to stop investigating the Director General of the EPU, Ali Abul Hassan, who was found with a large sum of unexplained money. Mahathir further demonstrated his arrogance and power by promoting the EPU Director General as the Governor of Bank Negara.
During the Mahathir era, corruption and fraud spread like cancer. Money politics became a common affair. Now it has become a serious menace. It has become apparently rampant in UMNO and during some other BN component party elections. Defections from the opposition to the BN parties are apparently achieved through bribery and patronage. Imagine what integrity, credibility and ability a leader has if he gets elected by buying of votes?
During his tenure, Bank Bumiputra suffered heavy losses. The first loss was a mind-boggling RM 2.5 billion. Then it suffered another loss amounting to RM 1.01 billion. He authorised the people’s money to offset the losses.
Billions of ringgit were reportedly paid to bail out companies owned by his cronies and children. Unlike other countries, privatisation in Malaysia was carried out by negotiated contracts, not through open tender, as promised by the PM in 1983. The nation lost heavily and the apparent beneficiaries were the cronies and friends of the Executive.
Perwaja - Mahathir’s heavy industry venture - suffered huge losses amounting to several billions of ringgit. But how much exactly - can someone tell us? Where is the accountability and transparency promised by Mahathir? Why does Petronas refuse to be accountable to Parliament? What is the annual revenue of Petronas? And who decides how it is to be utilised? And who exactly benefits from the huge account?
A series of 'what if's'
As it is known, Anwar Ibrahim was invited by Mahathir to join UMNO in 1981. Having accepted the invitation, Anwar treated Mahathir as his father. The relationship went on smoothly for a number of years.
But corruption became endemic; the habit of gaming and gambling spread like wildfire. Crime was on the increase. Transparency and accountability disappeared. Cronyism and nepotism became rampant. The nation’s wealth was squandered and misappropriated.
As the days passed, the father-son relationship soured. And Anwar seemed left with only one choice: to contest against Mahathir. In the event of defeat, Anwar would have disappeared from the scene. But Mahathir couldn’t even think of a possible defeat because of the possibility of the enormous adverse consequences.
Let us pause for a while and hypothetically ask a question. What would have been the political scenario if Najib had not traded his bloc of votes in 1987, as claimed by some; and what would have been the consequence?
Not only Mahathir would have disappeared from the political scene; Malaysia would possibly have turned out to be a more prosperous country; Najib apparently would continue to live with a clear conscience, without feeling the guilt of having betrayed a family friend.
And suppose Anwar had accepted the invitation to join Razaleigh’s camp, what would have been the outcome?
Razalaigh would have become the prime minister of Malaysia. There would not have been so much misery and misfortune in Malaysia. There would have been more freedom and democracy; more prosperity and social justice. Corruption would never have become so rampant.
Who knows, most probably Anwar might have become prime minister by now. And definitely, Anwar would have escaped the six years of mental agony and miserable prison life, and remained a much healthier person.
In all probability, obnoxious and repressive laws such as the ISA and others would have been repealed in line with democratic and human rights norms.
I wonder if Mahathir has ever given a thought to the above questions.
Now e-mail us and tell us what you think. Your comments might be published in the Letters section of our print magazine, Aliran Monthly.