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BW: The Curse of Dr. M
By Bruce Einhorn
29/3/2001 12:44 am Thu
[Mahathir memang gemar memuntahkan kata-kata yang kesat
untuk memperlekehkan seseorang dan dia tidak ambil perduli
jika itu bercanggah dengan norma hidup dan batas-batas keugamaan.
Anwar dan Ku Li diaibkan sebegitu teruk sehingga kerier mereka
terus terpadam dari dalam walaupun ia mungkin menyala di luar.
Pihak asing juga menjadi mangsa tuduhannya yang celupar walaupun
mereka jugalah yang selama ini menolongnya keluar dari tersepit
Mahathir gemar bermain kata kerana dia kerap menang walaupun banyak
katanya tidak berfakta. Banyak pihak termakan apa yang dikata bila
kepentingan diri sudah menjadi raja. Kalau tidak termakan pun, mereka
akan dituduh mementingkan diri juga - juga dengan kata-kata. Itulah
putar alam Mahathir sehingga musnah negara dan rosak ugama dibuatnya.
Hidup kini menjadi penuh dengan prasangka.... yang tidak berpijak di
Perception is deception.
MARCH 19, 2001
Malaysia's Mahathir has been so bad for his nation that his name
has become a verb, meaning "to wreck a country's fortunes"
In any contest for worst ruler in Asia, you would have to consider
Malaysia's longtime leader, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. But do it
carefully. Remember, the septuagenarian Prime Minister is a bit, well,
sensitive to criticism. And he comes up with ingenious ways to get rid
of annoying rivals.
How many other global leaders have had the nerve to lock up a
popular critic on trumped-up charges of homosexual shenanigans?
And how many other self-described lovers of democracy have the
nerve to blame the victim when the same locked-up critic complains
of police beatings in jail? That's what Dr. M (he's a medical doctor,
not a PhD) famously did with protégé-turned-opponent Anwar
Ibrahim in 1998 and 1999.
If that were all, of course, Mahathir would not rank too high in the
Asian pantheon of failures. Oh, it's headline-grabbing stuff, all right.
But these days, the competition is pretty heavy. There's bumbling
Japanese Premier Yoshiro Mori, the man who decided to continue
his golf game after learning that a U.S. submarine had struck and
sunk a Japanese fishing boat filled with teenagers. And then there's
Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, who elected to fly off on a
trip to the Middle East while his citizens engaged in brutal ethnic
cleansing in Borneo.
Asia has no shortage of political stupidity. But let's consider some of
Mahathir's other "achievements." Take, for starters, his blatant
anti-Semitism. During the worst of the Asian financial crisis, Mahathir
hauled out a copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and blamed
Muslim-hating Jews -- rather than his own mismanagement -- for
doing in Malaysia's economy. Then there's his America-bashing.
Never mind that Malaysia depends heavily on American markets for
its exports of electronics goods and on American investment to
produce much of those goods. That has never stopped Mahathir from
tearing into the U.S. when it's convenient.
Why stop there? Look at his xenophobic attacks on the foreign press.
And his penchant for supporting outlandish grand projects -- the
world's tallest building, the world's longest building. You name it, if it
involves setting some type of record for Malaysia, Dr. M has been for
it. There's Mahathir's refusal to push for the sort of widespread reform
that Malaysia and other Asian countries desperately need in the
wake of the 1990s boom and bust.
And he keeps on keeping on. Japan's Mori and Indonesia's Wahid
have been in office for only a short time -- and may not last much
longer, either. Dr. M, on the other hand, is the longest-serving
leader in Asia, having run Malaysia for two decades.
It's likely few will remember Wahid or Mori-san a few
years from now. You can't say the same for the colorful Mahathir. His
most lasting legacy may be his contribution to the Queen's English,
which is perhaps most ironic of all, since he rails frequently about
Britain's colonization of the country in the 19th and 20th centuries.
You see, Mahathir is no longer just a name. It's also a verb -- as in
"to Mahathir an economy." That means to almost single-handedly
bring down a country's fortunes by shooting off at the mouth.
I realized this a few days ago when I came across an opinion piece
on the Bloomberg news wire by William Pesek Jr. In his column,
Pesek pointed out the problems that Japanese Finance Minister
Keniichi Miyazawa encountered when he proclaimed that the
Japanese financial system was close to "collapse," the sort of word
that is not likely to inspire confidence among global investors.
Pesek also mentioned how U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney fell into
a similar verbal trap shortly after the November election by saying
that the U.S. economy was falling into a recession. Cheney's goal
was probably to help pave the way for the Bush Administration's tax
cuts -- and to make sure that any downturn in the U.S. got blamed
on the outgoing Clinton Administration. In the process, though, he
and other Bushies have run the risk of saying such irresponsible
things that they damage the economy with their own rhetoric.
"Officials," Pesek writes, "have to be careful not to 'Mahathir' their
TIME KEEPS ON SLIPPING.
When you're the leader of a small, relatively poor nation in Southeast
Asia without much strategic importance to the rest of the world, that's
the kind of global recognition that money can't buy. Sure, newly
elected Thai Premier Thaksin Shinawatra may already be a billionaire
(unlike former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos or Indonesian
President Suharto, who had to wait until getting into office before
making their fortunes). But don't count on anybody using Thaksin's
name as a verb anytime soon. And diminutive Philippine President
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may have succeeded in ousting one of
the more corrupt regimes in recent Philippine history, but I wouldn't
expect many people to incorporate "Macapagal-Arroyo" into their
But Dr. M isn't one to rest on his laurels. The most recent debacle
surrounds the initial public offering of telecom provider Time DotCom.
The company manages Malaysia's biggest fiber-optic network. And
it's part of Time Engineering, which is controlled by the Renong
Group, a conglomerate with strong ties to UMNO, which is the
biggest party in Malaysia's coalition government. Mahathir is
president of UMNO.
That political pedigree didn't help Time DotCom much with investors,
who bought only 25% of its shares in the recent IPO. After the
offering, a state-run pension fund admitted that it had given Time
DotCom a $260 million injection for a 10% stake in the company.
That has prompted critics to accuse Mahathir's government of
leading yet another bailout of a well-connected company.
Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang points out
that, following the dismal public reception of Time DotCom's offering
in February, the pension fund intervened and bought up leftover
shares from the underwriters, paying the IPO price of 39 cents, even
though everyone knew it was sure to plummet as soon as the shares
started trading. And sure enough, once they did in March, Time
DotCom's stock plunged 31%. "The use of public funds to bail out the
Time DotCom 75% IPO shortfall," Lim writes on his Web page
(www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/3939), is "tantamount to criminal
breach of trust and criminal misapplication of public funds." Lim has
called for a police investigation.
Now, knowing what we do about Dr. M, guess how a police investigation
in Malaysia will turn out.
Einhorn covers technology from Hong Kong for BusinessWeek.
Edited by Douglas Harbrecht
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