Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia).
He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia."
Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill.
This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.
Mahathir is the only prime minister who devalued the
ringgit, the very symbol of the
nation’s sovereignty. If that were to be his only negative legacy, Malaysia could
easily bear it.
the man has burdened (and continues to burden) Malaysia with many more ugly
legacies. He has also devalued our culture and institutions. Most of all he has
devalued the trust we have in each other, a vital but scarce asset in a plural
a much lesser scale, and to serve more as a concrete example, the upcoming UMNO
leadership convention will be another. With its “no contest” rule now the norm,
the convention mocks the very meaning of a leadership election, reducing it to
the same level as the old Soviet “elections.” This coming event will again expose
the party’s corruptness and how pathetically bereft it is of talent. The same
old tired and tainted candidates will be recycled. It is an exercise less of renewal
and rejuvenation, more of an old and leaking sewer treatment plant, with nothing
to hide the stench.
for the candidates, they would be like desperate monkeys elbowing and clawing
each other for the top braches, their howling effectively drowning out the
sound of the tree crashing down.
speaking, this party is of course not the original UMNO, rather “UMNO Baru,”
Mahathir’s own creation after he maneuvered a less-than-honest squeaky victory
over his challenger, Tengku Razaleigh, back in 1987. The party was subsequently
deregistered. UMNO Baru is but a pretender to that glorious old party, the
spirit of 1946, the one that bravely fought against the Malayan Union and
ultimately brought the country to independence. No surprise then that this UMNO
Baru has all of Mahathir’s ugly trademarks.
am privileged not to have met the man; thus my analysis is strictly based on
his policies and performances as a leader. It is not colored by personal
feelings or show of gratitude. I am spared the “mudah lupa” (ingrate) epithet.
thanks to Mahathir, this mudah lupa is
a special burden in our culture where one’s personal kindness and familiarity could
hide and indeed excuse many a sin. Mahathir himself is not spared this burden;
hence his being easily hoodwinked by the put-on piety and humility of his
chosen successor, Abdullah Badawi. Even Mahathir’s subsequent enthusiasm for
Najib to replace Abdullah was based less on Najib’s talent, more an expression
of Mahathir’s gratitude to Najib’s late father for having “rehabilitated”
Mahathir into UMNO.
Mahathir was once kicked out of that grand old party back in 1970 in the
aftermath of the deadly 1969 race riots. Those early leaders of the original
UMNO were wise and prescient.
he was, and with his subsequent ascent to the top post, the country now bears
the burden of his follies. We will continue to do so long after he is gone,
such was the damage he inflicted upon the country.
currency devaluation was painful enough, especially to the poor. We still bear
it today. Judging by past performances, this upcoming leadership contest would again
assault our sensibilities, especially of Malay culture. Forget about our budi bahasa (gracious) and halus (soft) ways.
previously found guilty of “money politics” (that’s corruption, to the rest of
us) like Isa Samad and Khairy Jamaludin would again be elected to top positions.
So too would former Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo, except that he is now
serving time for corruption. Incidentally Khir Toyo is regarded as “clean” by
his fellow UMNO members. As for Isa and Khairy, the former is now put in charge
of the multi-billion ringgit FELDA, the latter, a cabinet minister. That too,
is part of Mahathir’s legacy.
might quibble about Khairy for he once bragged about being Mahathir’s vocal
critic. However, Mahathir’s legacy is the overall negative culture he fostered
in UMNO Baru. In any other culture or jurisdiction, that young man would not
even be nominated for dog catcher. That speaks volumes to the degradation of UMNO
is Mahathir’s legacy, its destructiveness is pervasive and permanent precisely
because it is less obvious.
scathing and relentless criticism of his successor, Abdullah Badawi, cannot
hide the obvious fact that he (Mahathir) was responsible for the mess. He appointed Abdullah. Similarly,
Mahathir was highly instrumental in Najib replacing Abdullah. Mahathir’s excuse
of there being no one else is just that – an excuse. Two successive dud
appointments to the highest office of the land, another of Mahathir’s ugly legacies!
never tires of reminding us about Petronas Twin Towers, the gleaming highways,
and the KLIA, all built during his administration. He also used to brag about
Putrajaya, the multibillion-dollar new capital city. Not anymore. Yes,
Putrajaya sports some futuristic bridges but it must be the only capital in the
world that does not have any foreign embassies. As for those bridges, they must
be the only ones to be erected where first they had to dig a lake so they could
be water underneath those bridges!
pathetic that after having served as the nation’s longest serving chief executive,
Mahathir could point only to those physical monuments as his legacy. We have to
constantly remind ourselves that the deterioration of our institutions (especially
our schools and universities), the pervasiveness of corruption, the soiling of
our culture (especially Malay culture), and the erosion of the trust we have in
each other are very core of his legacy.
took the Soviets generations to free themselves of the grip of Stalin’s ghost. It
took the Chinese decades to recognize and then overcome Mao’s malignant feng shui. How long will Malaysians, Malays
specifically, take to escape the hantu
of Mahathirism? Will we ever?