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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Going beyond Mahathir’s feelings

He is not the only one to blame for the crisis the country currently faces.
COMMENT
mahathir-past
Former PM Mahathir Mohamad’s admission that he was the one ultimately responsible for the country’s current crisis is one of the more stunning developments coming in the wake of revelations in the US about the alleged embezzlement of 1MDB funds.
A man as proud as Mahathir would not easily make such an admission. We would have assumed that he’d be concerned about the legacy he would leave behind as he approaches his 91st birthday. But perhaps he is more concerned about the future of the country than about what people might think of him.
But if we go beyond Mahathir’s feelings, we’ll see in his statement an explanation of why we need a functioning democracy, one that is truly participative. We, the voting public, are just as much to blame for not keeping ourselves informed enough during the Mahathir years so that we could make intelligent choices at the ballot box. Admittedly, we are more informed now and this is no longer as big a problem as it was in the pre-Internet days.
But one characteristic of Malaysians that still deserve condemnation is our tendency to put leaders on a pedestal. We – both BN and opposition supporters – are too ready to worship our leaders as heroes. Note, for example, how Pakatan Rakyat supporters dismiss the tales of graft in Selangor and the heavy handedness of Lim Guan Eng in pursuing his dream for a Singapore-like Penang.
Malaysians in general are not fighting for fairness or against corruption so much as for a government that can do things competently enough to keep the actual day-to-day running of the country out of their hair, but that is not how democracy works. The public must keep being critical at all times and judgemental of the claims of public servants because the nature of power is to corrupt. We must not be too willing to accept at face value that which must be continually questioned.
The crows are now coming home to roost, and every Malaysian feels a sense of dread with every panicked denial from Putrajaya. The power struggle at the top will resolve itself in time, no doubt with plenty of high drama and intrigue along the way, but the lesson to be learnt here is that there are no heroes. There are only politicians and no one should trust a politician implicitly.
Perhaps this will ultimately be Mahathir’s legacy to us: a reminder that scepticism is indeed a virtue to be preserved.

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