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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mahathir's latest racist blast annoying not scary, faces irrelevancy


Wong Choon Mei, Malaysia Chronicle

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad raised eyebrows with his latest blog posting warning of “the violence of the Communist revolution” if the “minor protection afforded by the NEP” was removed, but the reaction he sparked was not one of fear that perhaps he had intended.

By now, most Malaysians are used to his racism-laced remarks and perceive them as being aimed to further his own interests rather than the nation’s. Murmurings that began a while ago finally erupted into the open with impatient comments like “the old man has lost his marbles” making the rounds rather any panic about possible civil unrest.

Hatta Ramli
“What revolution is Mahathir talking about? Who wants the revolution? Does he want to topple his own BN? For us in Pakatan Rakyat, we don't object to the New Economic Model which is actually copied from our economic manifesto," Kuala Krai MP Hatta Ramli told Malaysia Chronicle.

“Even if Prime Minister Najib Razak fails to launch the NEM because of Mahathir, when Pakatan takes control of Putrajaya, we will do away with the NEP and install something much better to benefit all the Malays and the other races. Right now the NEP only takes care of the rich, so we have to make sure wealth is distributed down the line. No siphoning or leakages to cronies.”

NEM has a clearer agenda

Even so, Mahathir’s comments still touched a raw nerve because they followed hot on the heels of similarly sinister remarks from his Perkasa associate Ibrahim Ali. Ibrahim had hurled a string of unnecessarily violent comments against DAP MP Teo Nie Ching for entering a Malay prayer hall, and made dark references to Malcom X and how the famous American civil rights activist had been shot.

Mahathir and Ibrahim Ali
Today Mahathir continued with the racist binge, using university scholarships to further drive the wedge deeper between various ethnic groups in the country. “The reality is that in Malaysia the bumiputeras need new skills and a new culture even. These cannot be had by them in a mere 20 years. The original planners of the NEP were too optimistic,” said Mahathir.

But the NEP or New Economic Policy was actually launched in 1971 by Najib’s father Abdul Razak, the country’s second prime minister. It expired in 1990 but was extended by Mahathir and as such has been around for 40 years. Najib has announced plans to replace it with a New Economic Model.

Although, there have been few details given, the NEM basically strives to distribute income on a needs-basis similar to the Pakatan plan. The NEP was also aimed to eradicate poverty, but through years of abuse and corruption by the Umno elite, many in the Malay community remain poor. And although the lower-income Malays are mostly disgruntled with the NEP, it has not stopped Mahathir from insisting that he is fighting for the NEP for them.

Ramon Navaratnam
“The NEM in fact spells out more clearly that it would aim to reduce poverty for the lowest 40 percent of the income groups. This is an advance over the NEP as it indicates the cut-off point at RM1,500 per month, which is about double the poverty line income under the NEP,” wrote Ramon Navaratnam, a former top civil servant who had helped draft the NEP, in a recent note.

Doors are closing on fretful Mahathir

Meanwhile, among Umno watchers close to Najib, there is some anger at the recent ruckus kicked up by Ibrahim and Mahathir. Umno, the country’s ruling party for the past 53 years, is now going through one of its worst patches.

PM Najib Razak
Not only does it have to fend off Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan coalition, internal factions led by Mahathir who also count Najib’s deputy Muhyiddin Yassin in their camp, are trying hard to block Najib from implementing his policies – whether social or economic.

They have stirred racial and religious non-issues into major controversies strong enough to spark civil unrest. Fortunately the Malaysian public has not reacted in the way Mahathir and his group have perhaps hoped for even though they have openly warned of racial riots similar to those in May 1969, where hundreds of lives had been lost.

“Don’t bother about Tun Mahathir. He can threaten, rant and rave but he is not the PM. Frankly, he is irrelevant now. The Najib administration is no longer listening to him because his demands are becoming too irrational. Nothing satisfies him, maybe he wishes he were still PM and that’s why he keeps agitating for his own way. He put Abdullah Badawi through the same hell,” an Umno watcher told Malaysia Chronicle.

“But he must get the message. He is not the PM, Najib is the PM. It is for Najib to try out his own vision for the country. Mahathir cannot be so sour grapes as to insist that his policies and ways are carried on by his successors. Times change, new ideas, new solutions are called for. Mahathir must let go. He is not only hurting himself, he is hurting the nation.”

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