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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The bellyaching about Mahathir’s track record must stop

The lessons from Mahathir Mohamad’s past should provide the people instead with the impetus to try to solve the country's present problems more diligently and urgently.
COMMENT
mahathir-malaysia-1
By TK Chua
Former Premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad did many things – some good, some not so good, some bad. The good ones we get to enjoy today. The not so good we get to face the consequences of today. We cannot go back in time to undo the bad things he has done. At most we can punish him and draw some lessons from his mistakes. But surely, we cannot solve our present problems by harping on his mistakes endlessly.
Despite whatever wrong Mahathir has committed, most Malaysians generally have reverence for him. At least no one was talking about punishing or charging him for his misdeeds until recently.
He put Malaysia on the world map and provided the country with many years of unprecedented growth and stability. Of course some would argue that the rapid growth was “coincidental” and stability came with a heavy price. Some suffered incarceration and even torture during his administration.
There was wastage and abuse of every kind during Mahathir’s time and the amount of RM100 billion has been tossed around as the sum he squandered during his 22-year leadership. However, on the whole Mahathir was a clever and competent PM. There were idiocies and misadventures during his administration, but I do not think the magnitude of it was as grave as those we face today.
There were failed ventures, commodity and forex trading losses, human rights violations and autocratic decision-making, but by and large, there was also national or public interest considerations involved. We cannot fault him for trying although some have turned out to be wrong calls.
I remember him as being rather capable of keeping civil servants in check. He capped their wages and kept inflation and the cost of living manageable. He kept civil servants comfortable but never pampered them.
He never appeased but monitored and controlled. He hardly outsourced the functions of civil service or used his consultants blindly. He likely helped his cronies but I cannot recall much of his extravagance.
Be that as it may, I am not here to defend his track record.
I am here to say that it is futile to lament about Mahathir’s past. It is also useless to keep harping on his motives. It will not change the severity of the problems we face today. In fact, the lessons from Mahathir’s past should provide us the impetus to try to solve our present problems more diligently and urgently.
My simple mind tells me that if he has not thought about the future of this nation, it would be better for him to stay retired and enjoy his golden years. It is even better for his children and grandchildren.
TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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