Commentary Politics

Wee is right but don’t expect Mahathir to stop talking

Umno minister Johari Ghani was an accountant with Berita Publishing but that was in the late 80s, just over 20 years before it was sold to Kadir Jasin for RM1.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

December 24, 2019.

Recollections & Reflections

IT used to be a problem during the administration of prime minister 4 and now that he is PM7, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has been showing the same traits that put much pressure on the foreign affairs ministry and Malaysian diplomats abroad.

My personal view then was that Malaysian should not allow itself to be bullied by stronger countries and I was on record on this but my position now is different, having seen how powerful economies can make life difficult for a small country like Malaysia which relies a lot on international and bilateral trade with other countries.

Mahathir’s first big fight as PM4 was with Britain which began in 1981, leading him to declare a “Buy British Last” policy, which one report said was a unilateral decision, meaning one that didn’t go before the Cabinet. It lasted less than two years but it was something either Malaysia or Britain needed.

Another spat that was widely reported was Mahathir’s problems with Australian prime minister Paul Keating later in 1993, which led to Keating calling Mahathir a recalcitrant for not attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Seattle. Keating was to later write to Mahathir that his remarks were never intended to humiliate the doctor.

It was also widely known for many years that Mahathir was not excited about the United States, arguably the world’s most powerful economy and military power. And of course there have been many irritants with Singapore, to the point of putting a stop to a plan by Singapore’s SingTel to buy into Time Engineering, at that time a company within the Renong Group, in what would have been a purely private sector deal.

If one scrutinises the spats then and the issues Mahathir has with some foreign countries now, it boils down to his personality, about how he looks at the attitudes of these countries vis-à-vis Malaysia’s position as a small country. It’s the ultra-nationalist and ultra-Malay in him that takes over, causing him to react unpleasantly where others may be more diplomatic, show more understanding and compassion. But Mahathir is different and is known to have an opinion on almost everything and thus never shy to speak his mind, even if it is to the detriment of the country.

In recent years Mahathir has spoken strongly about the mistreatment of the mainly Muslim Rohingya by Myanmar but hasn’t spoken out too strongly about China’s equally poor treatment of the also Muslim Uighurs. Being highly critical of Myanmar may not hurt Malaysia much but with China the risks are definitely bigger and the damage to the smaller country too burdensome to deal with.

There have been too a few highly critical statements on problems affecting Muslims in India and after the earlier issues relating to Muslim preacher Zakir Naik and Kashmir, Mahathir recently zoomed in on the new citizenship law in India which is deemed discriminatory to Muslims. India is a big market for Malaysia’s palm oil.

The most recent experience with what happened to the fifth KL Summit was another point his detractors had fun with tearing apart on social media, especially when only three notable foreign heads of government attended and with Saudi Arabia and the OIC being highly critical of the decision to hold the summit for Muslim countries.

Mahathir believes firmly that the world should hear Malaysia’s voice and no one should dispute that but there are realities the country needs to deal with.

Speaking at the United Nations general assembly on the many issues affecting the world is one thing but it does become an overdose when repeated at every assembly and its effectiveness in doubt, especially when there are more empty seats in the hall than delegates when you are speaking. Speeches at these sessions understandably get good play in the Malaysian press but are hardly ever mentioned by the international news agencies, which indicates how much the internationally community cares about what Malaysia is saying.

Now MCA president Wee Ka Siong has spoken out to ask Mahathir to stop picking fights with other countries as his actions will affect the well-being of the country, adding that while it cannot be denied that Mahathir has plenty of experience, he also has a reputation for openly fighting with powerful countries.

“During his previous stint as prime minister, he might have been seen as a speaker for other third world countries but the world today is different from the one 20 years ago.”

Nice try Wee but do you honestly think Mahathir is going to be moved by your statement?

Missiles from retired journalist fired at wrong target…..

Former Umno minister Johari Ghani has been slayed by retired journalist-cum-Pribumi Bersatu politician Kadir Jasin for his views on the state of the Malaysian economy plus what is said to be the accountant’s role in certain decisions by government-linked companies and the Media Prima Group.

The neutral amongst us will not find anything wrong with Johari’s views – that there are uncertainties, including the power transition issue, which contribute to the lack of confidence, especially by potential foreign investors. It’s these uncertainties that drag down the stock market and the value of the ringgit and many critical writings by various people outside the country touch on this.

Even if Johari was involved in the recent Media Prima retrenchment exercise, it is truly ironic given Johari’s political affiliation because he is not only an ordinary Umno member but also a part of the party’s supreme council, which is its leadership group and governing body, and also because Media Prime is now under the control of the Pakatan Harapan government.

Johari may have been with the media group but that was in the late 80s as accountant at Berita Publishing, a subsidiary of the New Straits Times Group, a little over 20 years ago before it was sold for RM1 lock-stock and barrel to Kadir. He has responded to Kadir’s criticisms.

But doesn’t Pakatan have enough accountants, economists, analysts and consultants to work with that they should find it necessary to still turn to Johari?

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Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.