Someone commented that today 31st October 2013 represents the 10th anniversary of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed’s retirement as the Prime Minister of Malaysia and also from holding office in UMNO and the BN.
Dr Mahathir retired from office on 31st October 2003. Dr Mahathir’s 22 years in office touches our lives positively every single day. Do you know that if you take the Putra LRT from the Masjid Jamek Station you will reach Bangsar in almost exactly 7 minutes? The Putra LRT runs without a driver. And it has been running almost perfectly, with very few stoppages or breakdowns since it began operations on 1st September 1998. After 15 years of running it is still 7 minutes from Masjid Jamek to Bangsar.
To me that is the type of efficiency that I still associate with the premiership of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed. During his time you could rest assured that most of the things he did were well planned, well managed and served us all well.
Even the earlier Protons that came out during Dr Mahathir’s time were of very good quality. I disagree that it was because they used more Mitsubishi parts then. Yes they used more Mitsubishi parts but you still had to put it together here in Malaysia. Our boys did a good job.
I helped finance UMW’s first foray to make the Perodua Kancil – which has been a non stop success since Perodua was launched. So dont forget Perodua was also launched under Dr Mahathir – not just Proton. The initial loan was about RM250 Million. We visited the Perodua plant at Tanjong Malim. I was fascinated to see the Kancil being put together entirely from sheet metal. The car did not have a chassis.
The CEO at that time (a Chinese man I forget his name, my apologies) said after they had manufactured the first batch they met Dr Mahathir. He asked a simple question, ‘Can you drive up Genting Highlands with four adults in the Kancil?’
They all panicked because no one had driven the car with four adults up Genting Highlands. So as soon as they got back, they put four adults in a Kancil and drove up Genting. To their relief the car performed well.
Again this story reminds me of Dr Mahathir’s vast knowledge and his penchant for knowing the details. He is not just extremely well read but he takes an interest in anything under the sun. He knew exactly what to ask about the Kancil – a small 650 cc car meant for the ordinary people. Can it go up Genting Highlands – a favorite holiday destination? It was an obvious challenge for our second national car.
Another time Dr Mahathir came to officiate a huge Taiwanese yarn manufacturer which we (Maybank) had also financed. It was my account. He was officiating two plants that day – the yarn plant in Malacca and a billion Ringgit petrochemical complex in Pasir Gudang (which was also my account). While we drove to Malacca and then on to Pasir Gudang, Dr Mahathir flew overhead by helicopter.
I recall his schedule was tight – from Tanjong Keling in Malacca, meeting other people then on to Pasir Gudang.
Both the plants, especially the yarn plant, were huge monstrosities. And there was a walkabout around the plant. Dr Mahathir walked through the entire plant without breaking a sweat. Others were keeping up with him. It looked like the tight schedule would be still ok.
Then they showed him the quality control lab at the plant which tested the raw materials and the finished product. They had delicate stretching machines that tested the strength of raw cotton, high powered microscopes which blew up the micro fibres for inspection and a host of other interesting instruments.
They also had samples of different types of cloth used to make different types of clothes (ladies and mens undergarments, ladies dresses, mens clothes, ladies coats, mens coats etc).
The more knots per square inch (or square centimetre) in the textile, then the finer, softer and more expensive the textile. Ladies undergarments are made of the finest and most expensive textiles, next will be mens’ undergarments and so on – somewhat close to the list above.
The cloth that is finer than ladies undergarments is that silky little piece that comes inside your spectacles case to clean your spectacles. That is a very finely knotted and very soft cloth. It cleans your glasses well because its micro fibres are smaller in diameter than the dirt particles. All this was on display at that quality control lab.
This is where Dr Mahathir just stopped. He started asking questions, observing this and that and was just thrilled at all the mechanical and electronic stuff they had in that lab. I think he spent about 30 minutes there. Schedule started going off the clock. The handlers and organisers were all fretting here and there. That was Dr Mahathir. He had and still has the endless curiousity of a young child.
I will also remember forever Dr Mahathir’s simple message ‘Malaysia Boleh’. I think that was his greatest contribution to all Malaysians. That we could do whatever we wanted to and be whatever we wanted to be. During his time ‘Malaysia Boleh’ moved Malaysians to aim higher and to achieve greater heights.
And all this Dr Mahathir did with the people he could find in Malaysia. They were the same Malays, the same Chinese, the same Indians, the same Ibans and Dusuns. But get this folks – they were the people of 30 years ago. Dont forget Dr Mahathir became PM in 1981.
He achieved all this with the same Civil Service and Government machinery that existed at that time – minus hand phones, minus Internet, minus Facebook, Google etc. As for the sceptics who say this and that about Dr Mahathir you are disproven by all the good things that we can still find in this country. Economic growth was strong – 7%, 8% and 9% growth rates were common. To the detractors – how do you explain that?
And we were creating new industries and new wealth in the country on an unprecedented scale. The prosperity that we are still enjoying now is actually the momentum from 22 years of Dr Mahathir’s rule. We are still riding the wave that Dr Mahathir created. That North South Hiway is still generating new economic growth. So are Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and the KLIA.
Over the past 10 years though – since Dr Mahathir retired – the country has been slipping and sliding. The lunatic fringe, the misfits, the opportunists and the dim witted, on both sides of the political divide, are now roaming the land – abusing the freedom that is found in this country.
During Dr Mahathir’s time as Prime Minister racial harmony was at its peak. The country was not only peaceful but there was no tension of any sort. You could go anywhere you wanted at any time of the day or night.
It would also be foolish to think that fifty thousand people, mostly Chinese, would get up early and brave the rush to attend his Hari Raya Open Houses at Sri Perdana and later at Putrajaya just to eat free satay and ketupat?
It was during Dr Mahathir’s time that the Opposition news media really started to take off. Because there were no restrictions against what they could write. So if you wanted to see the latest ‘evil’ cartoons of Dr Mahathir one could read the Aliran Monthly magazine. At that time it was basically anti Mahathir. (I was a long time subscriber).
If you wanted to see the latest sketch of Dr Mahathir’s nose, you could read Zunar in The Harakah. The Rocket also became more widely read during Dr Mahathir’s time as premier. They could say anything they wanted.
In the late 1990s when the Internet was introduced, there was absolutely ZERO censorship of the Internet. People like MGG Pillay became famous for haranguing the Government day and nite on his famous Sangkancil website.
And it was also during Dr Mahathir’s time that foreign magazines and newspapers were freely accessible in Malaysia without any censorship. I recall only once when a foreign magazine was censored (some sentences on a page were blacked out) over some “sensitive” news in the country (not involving Dr Mahathir).
Ops Lalang in 1987 was a blip on the horizon. Opportunists were inciting hatreds for political purposes. Some were locked up for some time (a few weeks to months). The interesting thing was that the moment they were locked up, everything just quietened down. They had no real support from the masses. There was no ‘Arab Spring’ moment.
And throughout his 22 years the BN never lost the 2/3 majority in Parliament. Even after Operasi Lalang in 1987 the Chinese voted for Dr Mahathir in droves. The DAP’s Kua Kia Soong wrote a book about the 1995 elections where he said that “even DAP members supported Dr Mahathir“.
And the Opposition was always present in the country. In 1990 the PAS won in Kelantan and Pairin took Sabah into the Opposition. Pairin rejoined the BN in 2002 – one year before Dr Mahathir retired.
But PAS still controls Kelantan. Under 23 years of PAS rule, the people of Kelantan, especially their Muslim women, enjoy the greatest amount of freedom, progress and economic prosperity. Very soon the non Muslims in Kelantan will also be enjoying the same levels of progress as the Muslims. We wish them good luck.
In a snapshot that was Dr Mahathir’s 22 years of rocking and rolling. We knew exactly where we were and we knew where we were going.
Ponder this folks – Dr Mahathir has now been retired for 10 years. Where do you think the country will be 10 years from now? A country is made up of people. So what will you be like 10 years from now?