Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dr M: Truth a bitter pill to swallow, new dilemma; LKY: comment on Muslims 'outdated'

Dr M: Truth a bitter pill to swallow


So sue me, says former PM

PETALING JAYA: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is unconcerned about possible lawsuits over his memoirs.

Dr Mahathir said he was driven to tell the truth in his autobiography A Doctor in the House.
“There will be those who will not be satisfied.

“If they want to sue, sue lah,” he quipped after launching the book at Mid Valley Megamall yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said he had kept its publication a secret until the launch date to avoid a possible court injunction to stop its release.

“I want people to read it. Whatever they think of it is their prerogative,” he said.

It took him eight years to write the autobiography, he said. “I did not type. I used long hand.”

Dr Mahathir said during his tenure as Prime Minister, he was described as a dictator.

“(In the autobiography) I tried to prove that I am not. But some people will still feel otherwise,” he said.
To a question, Dr Mahathir said that through his biography, he wanted to deliver the message that it was not impossible to achieve anything when one is willing to learn.

“I was a commoner, I was not trained in the field of administration, economics or finance. But you can learn if you want to learn. The best reward is not monetary gains but the results of your effort,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also took a swipe at Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim whom he accused had claimed credit for certain things.

“He (Anwar) is claiming that the setting up of UIA (International Islamic University Malaysia) was his idea,” he said.

On his next project, Dr Mahathir said he would look into rewriting The Malay Dilemma.
“When they (the Malays) were poor they were in a dilemma. When they are rich, there is a bigger dilemma,” he said.


1. Uncommon life of a commoner

PETALING JAYA: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad never thought he would ever become prime minister.
While he harboured dreams of becoming so, he felt that the odds were stacked against him: he was nothing like the previous PMs, who were all lawyers and were either of royal blood, like Tunku Abdul Rahman, or from elite families, like Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Hussein Onn.

“I, on the other hand, was a commoner, the son of a former schoolteacher ...” he writes in A Doctor in the House, his long-awaited autobiography which was launched yesterday.

In his preface, Dr Mahathir states: “This is the story of Malaysia as I see it. This is also my story.”
And what a story it is.

It is vintage Dr Mahathir, written in a simple, straightforward style with deprecating, yet occasionally sly humour. At the launch, he was asked about the title and he quipped:
A leader's story: The cover of the much-anticipated autobiography. 
“Well, I considered calling it ‘Mahathir the Napoleon’ or ‘Mahathir the Great” or ‘Mahathir the Magnificent’ – like Suleiman the Great (the longest-reigning sultan of the Ottoman Empire, from 1520 to 1566).

“But I decided against hyperbole as that was not the right way to go.” To him, he was first and foremost a doctor, whether he was caring for his patients or the country, hence the title.

Below are excerpts from the early chapters of A Doctor in the House. MEDICINE was not considered the best qualification for a Prime Minister.

I was also a rebel and a troublemaker. I had no protector. I was expelled from Umno in 1969 for daring to criticise the Tunku.

This alone should have ended my political career. My political salvation came from Tun Razak, who overlooked my behaviour with the Tunku and smoothed my way up by making me a full Minister after I won a seat in the 1974 General Election.

When he died in 1976, my only protector was gone. I have often wondered why he (Tun Hussein 0nn) chose me to be his deputy. He knew very little about me personally.

I believe he did not have much of a choice when picking his deputy, and perhaps Tun Razak’s views still exerted some influence.

As he once told me, Tun Razak advised him to call me if he ever needed help. My own relationship with Tun Hussein, however, was sometimes strained.

He rejected a number of my suggestions and was not pleased that I had ventured to offer them.
Increasingly frustrated, I stopped putting forward ideas, I did not want to annoy him and jeopardise my chances of becoming Prime Minister.

Then in 1981, Tun Hussein suddenly informed the Cabinet that he was going to the United Kingdom for treatment for his heart condition.

The operation was successful but Tun Hussein remained unwell when he returned home. One day in mid-1981, he told me that he could not carry on and wanted to step down. I was to take over from him. – from “Becoming Prime Minister”

WHILE my father stressed general education, my mother insisted that her children learn the teachings of Islam early in life.

I was closer to my mother than to my father and as a result, she shaped my personality more. She taught me the values that I have upheld throughout my life, especially to be modest and not boastful about what I have done.

Through teaching me to be modest, my mother also handed down the values of tolerance and respect.
My parents were very close.

They did not demonstrate their affection for each other as it was unbecoming to do so, but I knew they loved each other very much.

I cannot imagine what growing up in a polygamous family would have been like. Surely, in such a situation, bitterness would eat at the heart of the household. I would never dream of taking another wife and causing (Tun Dr Siti) Hasmah and my children anguish and pain.

Just as I drew moral instruction from my father and mother, my children have also drawn moral guidance from me. Or so I hope. – from “Family Values”

I HAD set my heart on studying law because I enjoyed debating. But when I finally received a scholarship, it was to study medicine in Singapore.

At college, I found myself among mostly Chinese and Indian students as Malays made up only 10 per cent of the 70-odd students.

The non-Malay students were brilliant, each having entered with a minimum of 6 As. I believe that, with my 3 As, I gained entry partly due to the fact that the Government of the Malayan Union wanted some Malay students to take up medicine.

Once, in Physics class, I tried to help a Chinese student by explaining how to carry out a particular experiment. He ignored what I said and turned to another student, probably because he did not trust my grasp of the subject.

That semester was my first, and I topped the class in Physics. The snooty student failed the first-year examinations and had to leave.

College was not only about examinations and student issues. Of the seven Malay students in our batch, one was a girl named Hasmah, who wore her hair in two pigtails.

Eventually, she asked whether I could help her with some of her lessons. This would prove near-fatal to our friendship. I was a very impatient young man, and I simply could not understand why she was unable to follow my explanations.

There were times when she and I would lose our tempers, but it was very nice when we made up.
We grew very close, Hasmah and I.

We were only able to get married nine years after we met. One of the dresses that Hasmah wore (at the wedding) was a traditional Chinese dress fashioned after those worn by the Chinese concubines of the Sultan of Malacca.

I teased Hasmah mercilessly after that about being my own concubine. – from “Going to Medical College”
I WAS quite a popular doctor and the number of my patients - Chinese, Malays and Indians - kept increasing.

As the years passed, I found myself stuck in my clinic the whole day and long after other people had gone home. My world seemed to only consist of nights.

One unattractive aspect of a doctor’s career is obvious but rarely mentioned - most of the people I came into contact with were sick. Some were dying, and some died in front of me during treatment.

A close friend died one day of a heart attack and I was called in to certify his death. I was so affected by his death that I wept silently. I generally feel very strongly about things. Even today when something affects me, I get a tight feeling in my chest and my voice breaks. This happens frequently when I talk or even think of the Malays and their failures.

I get emotional and my tears well up. Ironically, I have a reputation for being tough, even ruthless. Maybe I am. If one wants to get things done one must be single-minded and determined. When I was Prime Minister, I wanted to redeem the honour of the Malays, Malaysians and Malaysia.

From the beginning I knew that it would require a great sense of purpose and a willingness to fend off all challenges.

It must have been those qualities that made me seem hard and uncompromising when I was Prime Minister, for nobody can succeed in politics if they do not have a tough skin.

What I did not want to show was how easily touched I was by tragedy and human suffering. – from “An Alliance is Born”
2. Dr M and the new dilemma

The second and final part of excerpts from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s instant best-seller – more than 10,000 copies sold since its launch – reveals his views and feelings on some key people and events.

PETALING JAYA: When he was Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was exciting to interview. He almost always had an opinion on everything – which made great copy and headlines.

That still holds true with his autobiography, A Doctor in the House, as the following excerpts show.
> I am a Malay and proud of it. There are many reasons why I state this so strongly and boldly.

Stereotypes will always persist, even in the most progressive and educated societies. But a good leader does not let them go unchallenged. Every time when, as Prime Minister, I made a mistake or an unpopular decision, people were ready with their “dim-witted Malay” slurs. But when I made good decisions, it was always because I had Indian blood. I wanted to prove otherwise: that Malays were more than capable of thinking, progressing and leading. – Chapter 3: I Am A Malay

> Most Malays have come to think that the affirmative action instituted by the Government in the NEP is a recognition of their “superior” position as the indigenous people of this country. This is the new Malay dilemma. Do we take the bull by the horns and tell (the) Malays the truth, or do we refrain for fear of losing their political support?

Now, what we appear to have is a new culture of indigenous entitlement. Far from supporting professional Malay capabilities and competitiveness, it dampens the desire to strive. – from Chapter 18: The Malay Dilemma

> It is bizarre that many Malays seem to think that Malay reserve land is a recognition of their being “masters” of the country. This is disgraceful. The Native Americans of the US do live on reserves but no one regards it as a privilege. Indeed, it is an open acknowledgement on how they cannot compete with other Americans.
The Malay Reserve Laws should be nothing more than an interim mea­sure, and at best, temporary crutches.
- Chapter 20: Into the Deep End    
Life account: Dr Mahathir at the launch of his autobiography at Mid Valley
> Lee (Kuan Yew) and I had a civil relationship, but it was never a friendship. In the period until Singapore left Malaysia in 1965, I had numerous brushes with him in the Dewan Rakyat. His demeanour usually seemed condescending and he appeared to want to deliver lectures to the House on what it and Government should do. I listened carefully at first, but I got tired of his style of delivery. He adopted the didactic tone of a know-all schoolmaster, telling us all what we should do and pointing out all the “mistakes” we were making. – Chapter 14: The Bitter Thrill of Politics

> Talking to Lee Kuan Yew was a one-sided affair. His style of conversation, like his manner of addressing the Malaysian Parliament when he was a member, was to lecture his listeners about what was right and what was wrong. But during our discussion, I came to realise that he did not know all that much, especially on technological matters. I remember one occasion when he mentioned that he had just come across a new process of desalination. But it was not new at all and had been used generally for years.

Our relationship then was proper, professionally appropriate for political opponents, but never very friendly. Still, as Prime Minister, I worked hard at trying to resolve our various problems with Singapore but found them unresponsive. – Chapter 32: Realigning Malaysia in the World

> On the eve of my operation (a bypass following a heart attack in January 1989), a phone call came from Lee Kuan Yew. He was very concerned. He asked (Tun Siti) Hasmah to persuade me to postpone the operation because he had a medical team ready to fly to Kuala Lumpur, with the well-known cardiac surgeon Dr Victor Chang, a Singaporean living in Australia, to do the surgery. But Hasmah said I had already made up my mind (to have the bypass done by Malaysian doctors). She thanked him.

Apparently, Lee also contacted Tun Daim Zainuddin to ask him to intercede. Despite our many differences throughout the years, I appreciated Lee’s concern. – Chapter 43: Matters of the Heart

> The Europeans made the bizarre decision not to provide arms to the Bosnians (during the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict in the 1990s) on the grounds that, should the Bosnians be able to defend themselves, more people would be killed. Apparently it was better if only Bosnians were killed. This, we thought, was morally wrong. So we decided to provide them with some light weapons.

That may have contravened United Nations orders but at this point, the Bosnians had no means to defend themselves. Other Muslim countries also provided aid, but to this day Bosnians still think that Malaysia was the country that helped them the most. – Chapter 32: Realigning Malaysia in the World 

> Soon after I retired, I was to disagree with the way the (International Trade and Industry) Ministry was giving out APs (Approved Permits) to those I suspected were not conducting legitimate car businesses. This led to a falling out between me and the then Minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

In all fairness, she was very good at what she did and was promoted to the post precisely because of her ability to perform. But she was intole­rant of criticism, and unlike most Malays, not afraid of being blunt. During Cabinet meetings, nobody dared to criticise her because they were wary of the heated arguments that would invariably follow. (Her) retort was always to point out how much worse you yourself were. It was all very unpleasant.

For my part, I kept her in the Cabinet because she was an able negotiator and wasn’t afraid of anybody. Because of this, she was able to obtain favourable terms for Malaysia in many trade agreements. Not without reason did those on the international trade scene call her “Rapid Fire Rafidah”. – Chapter 23: From Education to International Trade and Industry

> (As Education Minister) I was very much involved in getting Malay to be used as the main medium of instruction in schools. I believed that a common language can contribute to nation-building, a sense of identity and unity among people of all races. But when we switched to Malay, most Malays came to think very misguidedly that English was irrelevant. These days, most of our Malay-educated graduates cannot speak or write even a simple sentence in clear, correct English. – Chapter 21: Up the Political Ladder

> I have come in for a lot of condemnation by Malay language nationalists and there were many calling for Science and Mathematics to be taught in Malay again. The Government resisted, acceding to that political pressure for a time but on 8 July, 2009, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the Cabinet decision to revert to teaching the subjects in Bahasa Malaysia in 2012. I believe this is a mistake.

Apart from the employability of the graduates, there is also the problem of bringing schoolchildren of different races together. Ever since the English-language schools were converted to National Schools, most Chinese and Indian students ceased to mix with Malay students. Public universities draw students from all the communities, but on the campus they do not integrate. The Islamic Studies faculties have discouraged Malays from mixing with non-Malays in the hostels, suggesting that contact or even close proximity with non-Muslims is polluting.

Malaysians cannot live within their racial compartments. In a multi-racial society, it is important that they become familiar with one another while still young. If the schools cannot do this, then our universities should. If they don’t, then it will never happen. – Chapter 58: Education

> Lawyers and the foreign Press regarded the removal of (the five Supreme Court) judges as proof that I had undermined the independence of the Judiciary. However, the removals were done in the manner prescribed by the Constitution.

Because I view certain actions by certain lawyers (particularly those involved in politics) with some animosity, people often assume that what I have done in public life that touched on legal issues has been motivated to get back at the legal community. The trouble with this view is that it simply happens to be wrong.

I have criticised doctors, even though I am one. My criticism of the Malays is well-known. It does not mean I hate them. I always believe that when something is done which is wrong, someone needs to tell the person concerned. – Chapter 42: The Judiciary

> Anwar is an undeniably charismatic man and he knows how to get people to support him. All that I had done for Anwar in the past has been brushed aside. I was seen as having victimised him and throwing him in jail, as if there were no trial. Whenever my name is mentioned in a book or article, I am described as the Prime Minister who threw his deputy into jail. The fact that he was properly charged and tried in court is never mentioned.

I am a forgiving person by nature, and I rehabilitated the careers of many people who tried to undermine me politically. I even named one of them as my successor after Anwar was sacked as Deputy Prime Minister.

But I find it difficult to forgive Anwar for demonising me in the eyes of the whole world. Anwar should have been the Prime Minister of Malaysia today. But if he is not, it is because of his own actions. He left me no choice but to remove him and I did what I thought was best for the country. I may have made many mistakes, but removing Anwar was not one of them. – Chapter 53: Anwar’s Challenge

> Putrajaya is a beautiful, functional city. When I visited the Versailles Palace outside Paris I heard the guide proudly extol its beauty. But when the Sun King Louis XIV built it, the people of Paris had no bread to eat. When we built Putrajaya, Malaysians had full stomachs. It was not built at the cost of neglecting their needs. It expressed the people ’s own pride, not their leader’s vanity. – Chapter 51: Putrajaya

> Throughout my tenure, I tried hard to establish certain standards. Firstly, I did not encourage the adulation and excessive glorification that is often given to leaders. I was determined that there would be no personality cult. I gave instructions that my official picture should not be displayed in government buildings, although this was widely ignored. To date, nothing has been named after me, except an orchid. – Chapter 59: Resignation

> Hoping to lead by example, I practised the values we promoted and resisted any attempts to corrupt me. It involved controlling greed. As Prime Minister I was already receiving an adequate salary but the Government also provided me with comfortable accommodation, paid my electricity and water bills, gave me cars and aircraft for my trips and allowances for my travels.

I had everything and I did not need anything more. But of course my detractors still considered me corrupt. However, my conscience is clear. – Chapter 28: Bersih, Cekap, Amanah

Related Story:
‘Doc in the House’ flies out the stores

Singapore's Lee retracts controversial Muslim remarks

By Sapa-dpa

Singapore state founder Lee Kuan Yew retracted controversial remarks on the city-state's Malay Muslim community, says news reports. 

Statement on integration 'outdated'

Lee Kuan Yew 
Photograph by: REUTERS/
Tim Chong
Lee Kuan Yew

In a book launched in January, Lee is quoted as saying that multiracial Singapore was making good progress "until the surge of Islam came". He described Muslims as "distinct and separate," and called on them to "be less strict on Islamic observances" for better social integration.

But in a statement carried by state media on Tuesday, Lee said those views were "out of date," noting that he made the comments published in the book "probably two or three years ago".

He said ministers and legislators had told him that, especially after the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, "Singapore Malays have indeed made special efforts to integrate with the other communities."

"I stand corrected. I hope that this trend will continue in the future," said the 87-year-old, who serves as a minister mentor in the cabinet of his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Government leaders have distanced themselves from the elder Lee's controversial remarks, and have praised Muslims' efforts to integrate.

With general elections widely expected to be called before June, the government has been eager not to alienate Muslims, who represent around 15 per cent of the island state's population of five million.

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