Kuala Yong near Jeli, Kelantan is a laid back but picturesque place. Located some 100 kilometres west of Kota Bharu, the village was once the seat of a global controversy that is still being spoken about today – the Pergau Dam affair.
The Pergau Dam affair was about treachery – Mahathir’s style.
It involved an arms scandal as well as aid for the poor that turned into what is now the Pergau Dam.
Allegations of bribes being passed to the then-Prime Minister of Malaysia was abound. But as with the allegations of tens of billions of Ringgits squandered by Mahathir, he never challenged these allegations either.
The Pergau Dam story started with then Secretary of State for Defense George Younger’s agreement with the government of Malaysia in 1988 that the Britain would provide aid in the amount of 20 percent the value of arms sales from Britain to Malaysia. This aid would come in the form of a dam project, despite a subsequent assessment from economists and engineers of the Overseas Development Administration (ODA – the UK’s development arm at the time, which reported to the Foreign Secretary) who found that the dam would not be a cost-efficient way to increase the production of electricity.
In 1991, then Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, authorised the expenditure of £234 million from the aid budget anyway, to maintain a deal made by the defence secretary and approved by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and later John Major. The World Development Movement called for a judicial review of the funding of Pergau Dam on the grounds of a law which states that aid can only be used for “promoting the development or maintaining the economy of a country….or the welfare of its people”.
The British High Court ruled in 1994 that the project was not of economic benefit to the Malaysian people; the deal linked aid directly to commercial contracts and was unlawful.
The Sunday Times ran a story that the dam contractor, George Wimpey International, had paid an initial bribe meant for Mahathir to the tune of USD500,000 (approximately RM1.25 million then). Instead of challenging the newspaper in a court of law, Mahathir got Anwar, who was his Deputy then, to announce ‘Buy British Last II‘.
Lim Kit Siang, Mahathir’s present best friend, jumped at the opportunity to slam the latter. He openly challenged Mahathir to sue the Sunday Times in a court of law – something Mahathir never did.
Although the amount of bribe stated by Lim Kit Siang varied from what was reported by the Sunday Times the last two lines of the above screen capture of Kit Siang’s article shows that monies were transferred to ‘account numbers in Switzerland to which fees related to contract award are to be paid.‘
When the Pergau deal and alleged bribes transfers took place in 1984-85, Mahathir’s right-hand man Daim Zainuddin was the Finance Minister. Coincidentally, it was said that Daim owned, or was in control of, at least a bank in Switzerland, if not more. This was also how, according to Edmund Terence Gomez and Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Daim’s company called Baktimu Sdn Bhd was able to obtain a RM40 million loan from the Union Bank of Switzerland to buy a 33 percent stake in Sime UEP for RM75 million in CASH!
Daim only recently divested from the banking business in Switzerland through his company, ICB Financial Group AG.
Could Daim have been involved in providing the accounts into which these payments were credited?
Neither Mahathir nor Daim has come forth to explain, let alone sue especially the Sunday Times for running that story.
In the words of Lim Kit Siang when his struggle then was for the people:
In June 1969, a month after the 13 May tragedy, Mahathir wrote a letter to Tunku Abdul Rahman and began it with the following sentence:
“Patek berasa dukachita kerana tujuan patek membuat kenyataan kepada akhbar telah di-salah faham oleh Y.T.M. Tunku. Sa-benar-nya tujuan patek sama-lah juga dengan tujuan Tunku, ia-itu untok menyelamatkan negara ini daripada bahaya yang menganchamkan-nya.”
The Tunku’s popularity was at an all-time low. He had lost control over the issues that were dogging the population and had allowed that to spiral into a nationwide communal violence. Mahathir saw that as an opportunity to finally conclude a personal battle against the Tunku that had begun 27 years earlier, and end the latter’s political career.
That letter earned the Tunku’s wrath. Mahathir was expelled from UMNO. Seeing that the end is nigh, the Tunku chose to step down a day after his nephew, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, was sworn in as the Yang DiPertuan Agong.
Mahathir was brought back into UMNO’s folds by the Tunku’s successor, Tun Abdul Razak, with the recommendation by Selangor Menteri Besar, Harun Idris. When Razak died in January 1976, his cousin Hussein moved up and Mahathir became his deputy.
In 1981, Hussein had had to go for a coronary bypass surgery at the Harley Street Clinic in London. Mahathir saw this as an opportunity to have Hussein out of the way. In a post taken from Tian Chua’s Malaysia Chronicles, it is said that the DAP mysteriously received documents alleging that Hussein’s wife, Suhaila, was running Petronas from their residence in Sri Taman (now Memorial Tun Razak). There were also documents alleging that Exxon was stealing oil from Malaysian oilfields without Petronas’s knowledge.
In the same article, it was reported that it was Mahathir himself who started a rumour when Hussein was seeking treatment in London saying that the latter had a “terrible heart condition” and would be stepping down as Prime Minister upon his return from London “for health reasons”.
Purging of Cabinet Members and Interference in the Judiciary
After Hussein was gone, Mahathir had to remove other obstacles. The biggest obstacle was in the form of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. The ‘Team A’ versus ‘Team B’ rivalry saw Mahathir being returned after beating Razaleigh 761 votes to 718, Mahathir took further steps to eradicate Razaleigh’s influence by purging all Team B members from his cabinet.
This led to 12 Team B members to bring the matter to the High Court alleging that 78 of the delegates had been selected by branches not registered with the Registrar of Societies, and as a result were not eligible to vote. They also claimed that certain documents related to the election had been “tampered with”. Although Razaleigh was not among the twelve plaintiffs, he was widely believed to be funding and co-ordinating the suit
As a result, Justice Harun Hashim declared UMNO “an unlawful society” in 1987, but it took Mahathir, who was also the Home Minister then, just two weeks to have UMNO (Baru) registered – a process that would have taken months, if not years. The Registrar of Societies come under the Home Minister’s purview after all.
Mahathir did not take Harun Hashim’s judgment lightly. In an attack on the judiciary, he had several judges, including Harun Hashim, reassigned to other divisions. Salleh Abas, who was the Lord President of the Supreme Court, was pressured to convene a meeting with 20 Supreme Court and High Court judges where they agreed that the Lord President should write to the Yang DiPertuan Agong and the Malay Rulers expressing their grievances against Mahathir’s interference in the Judiciary.
Being the opportunist that he is, Mahathir knew that the then-Yang DiPertuan Agong was not in favour with Salleh Abas, over an issue about the noises that came from the construction of His Majesty’s private house which was in Salleh Abas’s neighbourhood, took advantage of the situation to agree with the Yang DiPertuan Agong that Salleh be removed.
A tribunal was set up. Five Supreme Court judges were removed – Tan Sri Azmi Kamaruddin, Tan Sri Eusoffe Abdoolcader, Tan Sri Wan Hamzah Mohamed Salleh, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Datuk George Seah. With the Supreme Court suspended, the challenge toward the legality of the tribunal could not be heard.
Salleh Abas was removed as the Lord President. Soon after, two other Supreme Court judges were also removed. They were Tan Sri Wan Sulaiman and Datuk George Seah.
Removal of Dissent via Ops Lalang
In 1987, tensions between the Malays and Chinese were high, partly as a result of Anwar Ibrahim’s education policies in particular the replacing of Chinese-educated assistant headmasters of Chinese schools with those unversed in Chinese language (Mandarin) On 5 September 1987, Lim Kit Siang had to send a wire to Anwar Ibrahim asking him to stop all transfers until the issue had been resolved. What did Mahathir do? Absolutely nothing to appease both sides.
Within a month, the tensions turned ugly and the threat of another 13 May loomed. The police had to take drastic action by executing Ops Lalang. A list of troublemakers and potential trouble makers were drawn up in a meeting between senior police officers in Fraser’s Hills, away from the eyes of the public, and when the danger of a racial clash was imminent, the police arrested those shortlisted.
The police did not have to seek the blessing from the Home Minister (who was Mahathir then) to conduct the arrests. However, the police would have to brief the Home Minister on the person(s) arrested. According to the now defunct Internal Security Act, 1960, only the Home Minister could sign a detention order to put a person behind bars without trial for a period not exceeding two years, IF THE HOME MINISTER IS SATISFIED WITH THE REASONS FOR ARREST. If not, they should be released.
And only the Home Minister was given the power to review the detention of a person, and extend the detention period for a period not exceeding two years each time. Not the police.
Turning the Brits into Suckers
The UK economy was in a bad shape back in the 1980s. Mahathir took the opportunity to strike at the UK by starting the ‘Buy British Last’ campaign in order to launch the infamous “Dawn Raid”. It was a time when Thatcher was trying to tackle high inflation. She tightened up her fiscal policy and aimed at reducing inflation by increasing taxes and interest rates, and cut spendings. As a result, the British government decided to increase foreign students’ fees by threefolds, from around £300 to £900. That was one of the reasons for the “Dawn Raid”.
In the end, it was an excuse to get the already weakened British government to provide financial aid to Malaysia in what is now known as the ‘Pergau Dam Affair‘. According to UK’s The Independent, Thatcher’s determination ‘to bat for Britain’ led her to agree to a huge development aid package as part of an arms deal which she negotiated during a visit to Kuala Lumpur in September 1988. The deal, at that time involving the sale of Tornado jet fighters, artillery, radar, submarines and Rapier missiles, was so sensitive that civil servants were banished from the room during the final stages of the negotiation.
The original Tornado jets deal, worth more than £1 billion, was cancelled when Mahathir decided to buy instead 18 MiG-29N fighters from Russia and eight F/A-18 Hornet fighters from the US. The deal with Britain was reduced to a mere £400 million sale of 28 BAe Hawk 108s and 208s.
More Treacheries In The 1990s
In 1986, Mahathir persuaded the docile Ghafar Baba to become his deputy. This move was to appease those who were against him in UMNO, and was made of want to be seen to welcome some form of neutrality. But really Anwar was his choice for a deputy. But Anwar was still “too young” then in political terms. Furthermore, Ghafar pledged his loyalty to Mahathir – a weakness that Mahathir exploited very well.
In 1993, Anwar was ready to take on the seasoned Ghafar Baba. When asked why did he not fight back, Ghafar had this to say:
“I had no means to fight, no money. Also, I did not want to attack Anwar then. How could I? We were in the same party. It would have only benefited the Opposition. My mistake was I did not see that politics had changed. In the past, they supported you based on your track record. Now it’s something else –this money politics.”
What did Mahathir do to stop Anwar from attacking Ghafar? As usual, nothing.
Anwar Ibrahim’s meteoric rise to the No.2 spot made him a very popular man especially with the youth. Many were already disenfranchised with Mahathir who not only by then had been in power for 12 years, but had two deputies removed before Anwar.
Soon, Anwar’s popularity became a threat to Mahathir. When the Asian Economic Crisis caused a financial meltdown, Mahathir allowed it to go on. On 3 December 1997, a cabinet meeting was held in Langkawi. Mahathir got a shock when, upon arrival, seeing that the meeting had been chaired by Anwar and had already been concluded. The cabinet members had decided to adopt an austerity plan similar to those imposed on neighbouring Thailand and Indonesia by the International Monetary Fund. The plan would cut public spending and halt infrastructure projects championed by Mahathir.
Mahathir agreed to go along with the cabinet’s decision. However, the very next day he announced that he would proceed with a controversial USD2.7 billion rail and pipeline project, effectively shooting down the cabinet decision. That sent alarms to investors and caused the Malaysian Ringgit to tumble to a new low.
As Prime Minister, Mahathir did nothing to arrest the fall of the Ringgit. At one point in January 1988, the Ringgit was traded at RM4.88 to the USD. Anwar being the impatient Anwar, launched a veiled attack on Mahathir with his “cronyism, nepotism” war-cry. Mahathir was then handed on a silver platter two reasons to get rid of Anwar.
The Opportunistic Hyena Now
Observers commented that Mahathir now spits at the sky. When his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi made errors of political judgment and received salvoes of fire from the Opposition, Mahathir saw that his successor may not win the 12th general elections – an event that would not augur well with Mahathir. Furthermore, Abdullah refused to interfere in the Federal Court’s decision to quash the sodomy conviction against Anwar. Anwar would then be released and was free to launch attacks on his former boss.
When Najib Razak was being attacked over the 1MDB issue, Mahathir thought that there was no way that the former would be able to explain himself. Naturally, the Barisan Nasional could even lose the next general elections. In the run up to the 13th General Elections, the Opposition promised that they would bring Mahathir to trial for his sins as the 4th Prime Minister. If BN loses, Mahathir would be sitting duck.
Being the opportunistic political hyena, Mahathir launched an all-out attack on Najib. At one point, political observers were very sure that Najib was going to crumble. However, when Najib fought back and started to gain grounds, Mahathir was left with no choice but to align himself with the very people he sent to prison without trial.
Mahathir’s fear has always been of being prosecuted in a court of law for corrupt practices during his tenure as the Prime Minister. He needs a strong Prime Minister who could protect him. By getting on the wrong side of Najib, he had lost all the protection he could get from the BN government. His solution was to form an alliance with his enemies, form a political party and join the Pakatan coalition. At least if Pakatan wins the next elections, he would be protected.
But at the back of his mind he knew that someone in Pakatan might turn his or her back on him and decide that he should stand trial for corruption – and that the billions his family owns would be frozen and confiscated. Therefore, he made his other move – be Pakatan’s Prime Minister-designate. All he needs is about two years if he lives that long, to escape the law.
As for now, Mahathir would say just about anything to show his relevancy, and to plead to the voters to accept him as their Prime Minister again – just as how his long-time friend Robert Mugabe has decided to form his own political party. It does not matter how damaging his words may be to the country, as long as he gets to fullfil his personal mission.
This brings me to remember the time when the Tunku launched attacks on Mahathir. Anwar Ibrahim was interviewed on the matter by foreign journalists. Anwar said the Tunku is a voice of the past, speaking for a style of politics that no longer exists. ”A grand old man who has done his bit,” he said to the journalists ”But I don’t know if he’s even conscious of what he is saying.”
We don’t know what Mahathir the Hyena is saying either.
The ‘Ping Pong Diplomacy’ between Malaysia and China that happened in 1971 was a marked departure from the policy on China set by Tunku Abdul Rahman. While Tunku blamed China for its support for the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), Tun Abdul Razak saw it necessary to engage China to end its support for the CPM.
When Mahathir took over the premiership in 1981, he placed importance on economic development and not so much foreign policy. Three years earlier, Deng Xiao Ping had also placed China under a process of economic modernisation. However, although there was an increase in bilateral economic and trade exchanges with China, the percentage of that compared to the overall trade declined. In the 10 years since the beginning of formal diplomatic relations, economic and trade exchanges between the two countries was at 3.5 percent of Malaysia’s total trade. This number fell to just 1.5 percent in 1984 (Stephen Leong, “Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China in the 1980s: Political Vigilance and Economic Pragmatism”, Asian Survey, Vol. 27, No. 10, October 1987, p.1114).
In a speech at Qing Hua University, Beijing in November 1985, an alarmed Mahathir said: “My own country`s bilateral trade with China has in fact declined since 1980 and this is despite the widely held view that China`s modernisation would increase the opportunities for trade and economic links.”
Mahathir saw China as a very important partner that could help the modernisation of Malaysia’s economy so much so that the delegation that he brought with him on that first visit in 1985 was huge. In a speech given during that visit he said:
“I have brought with me a large delegation of leading Malaysian entrepreneurs and businessmen. It is my hope that with your cooperation they would be able to fully explore further opportunities for trade and economic cooperation.”
Mahathir made six other visits to China between 1993 and 2001, a display of the importance of China in his economic policies. A year after he began his administration, trade with China stood at USD307 million. This jumped to USD1.4 billion ten years later. A year before he stepped down, it was at USD14 billion.
Mahathir led another large trade delegation to China in 1993 and 1994 with China returning the favour towards the end of 1994. Of China’s communist ideology, Mahathir in his speech during the 2nd Malaysia-China Forum in Beijing in August 1996 said:
“China has come in for special attention. For years it had been condemned for being Communist and isolationist, practising a close centrally planned economy. Now it has opened up and has adopted a version of the universally acclaimed market system. Instead of being welcomed to the fold, it is looked upon with fear and suspicion. The World Bank has sounded the alarm by predicting that China will emerge in the 21st Century as the greatest world economic power. And fear of China has mounted.”
Hence, we can see that it has never bothered Mahathir that China is a communist country, and working with China does not turn a country into a communist one. China was so important to Mahathir that he wanted to see his proposal for a regional consultative group, namely the East Asia Economic Group (EAEG) take flight with US and US-leaning countries accepting China. This, however, was not to be. To his dismay, Japan refused as it was closely linked to the USA which had formed APEC; South Korea refused as the EAEC proposed by Mahathir would have placed Japan at the centre of the organisation.
During the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-98, the Chinese Government assumed a highly responsible attitude. It provided assistance to all the affected countries including Malaysia within the framework of the IMF arrangements and through bilateral channels. The decision of not devaluating the Renminbi, for which China paid a high price, assisted ASEAN countries affected by the crisis to pull through.
During his visit to China in August 1999, Mahathir thanked China in his speech:
“China`s concern for the well-being of East Asia in the financial crisis has been most laudable. The regional economies and the global community at large greatly appreciate China`s decision — despite strong pressures — not to devalue the Yuan. Beijing`s cooperation and high sense of responsibility has spared the region of a much worse consequence. Renminbi devaluation would almost certainly result in a new round of currency devaluation by the affected economies.”
The crisis had brought both Malaysia and China closer together, both Mahathir and China promised better cooperation. In June 1999, Malaysia and China agreed to invest around USD2.5 billion to develop a Trans-Asia Railway from Singapore to Kunming passing, without doubt, through Malaysia. Mahathir welcomed China to play an active role in the railroad construction.
When Premier Zhu Rongji visited Malaysia in November 1999, an overwhelmed Mahathir said in his speech:
“We appreciate the decision of the PRC to participate in the pulp and paper projects in Sabah. I understand that this project is valued at RM4.3 billion is the PRC’s largest investment in the region. We hope as many PRC companies will try to explore the investment opportunities available in Malaysia.”
However, it is so wrong now for China to help Malaysia build the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL). Every single investment by China in Malaysia is seen as ‘selling away our rights and sovereignty’ but it was not the case back then.
I often wonder if Mahathir is jealous that Najib Razak is doing better, or if he (or his agents) is not getting a slice of the cake? He seems to be the only one making noise about China’s investments in Malaysia although, at less than three percent of the total FDI, is at the 10th place of the largest Foreign Direct Investments in Malaysia – the largest being Singapore. Why is China being made the scapegoat?
Which is why DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang has been silent on the issue of Forest City for the longest time – as he can see how it benefits his parliamentary constituency, very much unlike Mahathir whose hatred for Najib surpasses the needs of his political partners and voters.
During a conference on Assessing ASEAN’s Readiness by Country at the Napalai Ballroom, Dusit Thani hotel in Bangkok on 17 September 2013, the nonagenarian said:
“We have been trading with China for almost 2,000 years. China was very big, most developed nation in the past, they could have conquered us but they didn’t. They came and lived in Malaysia but they didn’t conquer us. And I don’t want to be in any confrontation with China. China is a good trading nation with 1.4 billion people.”
And suddenly after 2,000 years of peaceful co-existence, just because Najib Razak is now the Prime Minister of Malaysia, the China that Mahathir so loved wants to invade us?
It was a movement to topple the second most-hated dictator of the South East Asia. Tens of thousands would march on the streets of Kuala Lumpur chanting “Undur Mahathir, undur!” and the infamous “Reformasi!” after Anwar Ibrahim was summarily expelled from UMNO and denied a chance for the premiership over reasons Mahathir himself claims to have forgotten or something to that effect.
Leading this group of demonstrators was Anwar’s most loyal lieutenants, Azmin Ali, who was his Principal Private Secretary in the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office. With Anwar still in jail, Azmin is the most favourite choice for Pakatan’s Prime Minister-designate amongst the younger generation.
Or that was what we all thought would happen.
Suddenly, the 92-year old Mahathir manoeuvred his way into being accepted as the Prime Minister again if Pakatan wins the next general elections. DAP and the anti-Azmin camp inside PKR namely Wan Azizah’s camp accepted the nonagenarian but this was rejected by several opposition-friendly NGOs as well as Selangor’s PKR.
Several hints on social media platforms and insiders’ information of Anwar’s opposition to Mahathir being designated as Pakatan’s Prime Minister warranted an article by The Star’s Joceline Tan. The writing is all over the wall – REFORMASI is dead.
In a move seen to insult Mahathir, Azmin offered his Gombak parliamentary seat for Mahathir to contest in in the next general election, an offer rejected outright by the latter.
A leopard never changes its spots – and true to his character, Mahathir announced that he will deal with dissenters quietly – a reminder of his 22-year reign of terror.
Just like Anwar whose colour of underwear was made public for going against Mahathir, Azmin now finds tales of his sexual trysts being made public. We are reminded of the time Anina Saadudin’s steamy WhatsApp messages were made public after falling out with Mahathir’s inner circle.
Anything Azmin is now being attacked, therefore it’s going to be interesting to see how the champion of Reformasi will now go against the man he has been fighting against for the past 20 years.
If he fails, it would be Mahathir’s masterstroke – for killing off the Reformasi movement from inside and finally making it his own Reformasi where dissent can never be tolerated.
Welcome to Mahathir’s Reformasi – or Dictatorship 2.0 as we know it.
Mahathir’s return to politics in 1973 was watched closely by other races, in particular the Chinese and Indians. His meteoric rise to the Deputy Prime Minister’s post in 1976 was of grave concern by many. His imminent Premiership caused a large number of migration by Malaysian Chinese. Despite the economic growth in the late 1980s through 1997, some 42,000 Malaysian Chinese opted to work elsewhere. This number includes some 14,000 Malaysian Chinese who were working illegally in Japan in 1993 (Shimada, 1994).
”If citizenship is conferred on races other than the Malays, it is because the Malays consent to this,” wrote Mahathir in his book ‘The Malay Dilemma‘.
“The Chinese and Indians coming from countries with vast populations are less concerned about good behavior and manners. In their lives, nobility, which is always associated with breeding, was totally absent. Age and riches are the only things they defer to,” he added.
Calling for reforms such as the mandatory use of tamper-proof scales, Mahathir wrote of scales that can be used to shortchange customers and said, ”The small-time Chinese retailer is adept at this practice and unscrupulous enough to use it as a weapon in competition.”
Mahathir was the ultra-Malay to many including the Malays themselves. Fears of race clashes haunted the voters during the run-up to the 1982 General Elections. I remember being sent to Mimaland in Gombak with Datuk Latt Shariman (President, E-Sports Malaysia) on polling day in case something bad happens. It was the first General Elections under Mahathir and it was called more than a year before the then-mandate ended. Public rallies were banned citing ‘security’ reasons and only indoor gatherings and house-to-house canvassing were allowed (Lim Kit Siang, 22 March 1982).
Even though Malaysia’s economic growth peaked at 8 percent in the mid 1990s, it was mired in scandals involving the practice of cronyism and nepotism. Lim Kit Siang wrote that Mirzan, Mokhzani and Mukhriz Mahathir – acted as companies’ directors, and that according to searches the DAP had made at the Registry of Companies at the end of 1994, Mirzan had interests in 98 companies, Mokhzani in 48 companies and Mukhriz in 67 companies (Lim Kit Siang, 16 June 1998). Compared to the 213 companies his sons were directors in back in 1994, 488 is the number of companies Mahathir, daughter and sons are directors in as at end of 2016 (Wakeup Malaya, 6 January 2017).
The calls for Mahathir to resign in 1998 for practising nepotism and cronyism culminated in the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim as his deputy in September of the same year, accusing the latter not only of being a tool for George Soros’s attacks on the country’s financial system but also for leading a morally-corrupted life. Lim Kit Siang and other Opposition leaders were quick to embrace Anwar, acccepting him into their fold when it was just a year earlier that the late Karpal Singh had made mention of allegations of sexual misconducts against Anwar in a Parliamentary sitting – a scene not much different to Lim Kit Siang’s immediate acceptance of Mahathir after decades of mudslinging the latter.
Anti-Mahathir demonstrations were held almost daily and then held every Friday afternoon at the National Mosque. These demonstrations were quelled using brute force. The ‘Reformasi’ movement was born, and the likes of theatre-practitioners such as Jo Kukathas were seen on the streets and interviewed by Maria Ressa saying “Enough is Enough” to Mahathir. Anwar and several other pro-Reformasi and UMNO leaders critical of Mahathir were arrested without trial under the ISA including current DPM Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat, then known by its acronym ADIL, was born out of hatred towards Mahathir, with the aim of toppling him and installing Anwar Ibrahim. The 1999 General Elections saw how Mahathir suffered a pyrrhic victory, losing grounds in Kelantan and his homestate of Kedah, while losing Terengganu to PAS. Mahathir-loyalists such as Ramli Ngah Talib, Megat Junid Megat Ayub and Sanusi Junid lost their seats. That was the beginning of the sounding of the death knell for Mahathir’s virtually unchallenged reign. During the UMNO General Assembly of 2002, he announced his resignation from party posts as well as Malaysia’s Prime Minister.
Ever since then, with the more open administrations of Pak Lah and Najib Razak, Mahathir became one of the targets of the Opposition in their blog posts, press statements as well as ceramahs.
In June 2012, Mahathir’s newly-made best friend even suggested that Mahathir is tried for his part in the BNM Forex scandal, hinting Egyptian Hosni Mubarak’s imprisonment as a comparison (Lim Kit Siang, 3 June 2012).
But all is forgotten and forgiven now, even when Mahathir admitted that his apology was only customary and not sincere. Despite veiled objections from Anwar and Azmin Ali’s camp, Mahathir was named at a Pakatan convention as their Prime Minister of choice albeit interim. This underscores the fact that the leadership of Pakatans parties do not trust the younger generation to lead the coalition as the position of the elders and powers that come with the position, may be undermined by the younger ones.
The signal of dissent is clear. Azmin only attended the convention for a while, not waiting for the announcement to be made while Karpal Singh’s daughter, Sangeet Kaur Deo, has hit out at Pakatan which probably is suffering from a dearth of capable young leaders. Even Mahathir once quipped that Anwar, who is 22 years his junior, may be too old to become a Prime Minister.
On Facebook, we are seeing people in their 40s and 50s voicing out their concern over Pakatan’s choice of Prime Minister, alarmed that the monster they have put behind them, could very well jump out from underneath the bed and into their lives again.
But it does not stop Mahathir from wanting to become the Prime Minister. He once hinted that he may have to consider becoming the PM again, underscoring the fact that he does not trust anyone else.
Wan Azizah may be blind to the fact that Mahathir had once denied the Premiership to her husband and went as far as making sure Anwar went to jail to keep him out of the way, while Lim Kit Siang is only friends with Mahathir because he needs the Malay votes to ensure Pakatan’s seats are sustained after the departure of PAS from the now-defunct Pakatan Rakyat.
Will Mahathir be willing to step aside for Anwar Ibrahim or whoever else younger who would be more acceptable to the younger and middle-aged generation aware of his antics? I doubt. But as Sangeet mentioned above, it will be a return to Mahathirism, an era of abuse of power, cronyism and nepotism that the Reformasi movement was totally against.
Somehow, it seems that the Reformasi movement has become a tool for what it was totally against – ushering Mahathir into the premiership and welcoming again abuse of pwer, nepotism and cronyism.
I don’t know why Arul Kanda’s presence at the opening ceremony of the UMNO General Assembly is made a fuss. So did Khazanah Nasional Bhd managing director Azman Mokhtar, Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) group chairperson Abdul Wahid Omar, CEO Abdul Rahman Ahmad and Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera (LTAT) CEO Lodin Wok Kamaruddin.
It has always been a tradition for CEOs of Government-linked companies to be invited to the opening ceremony to listen to the UMNO President’s speech where it always touches socio-economic concerns. Even President of BN component parties are invited. In fact, among those who attended the final UMNO General Assembly with Mahathir as President were MCA’s then-President Ong Ka Ting and also PPP’s M Kayveas. So, what is the big deal?
Not too long ago, an archnemesis of the Opposition attended DAP’s Convention. There, those who swore to spit on his grave lined up to smile, bow and shake hands with the man they all had wanted to send to prison for being a corrupt dictator.
Behind Mahathir in the screen capture above is the very man who used to go around the country calling the former a PEROMPAK (robber).
Of course, now Mahathir is forgiven. All the RM100 billion according to both Lim Kit Siang and Barry Wain that Mahathir squandered have been forgotten, all in the name of politics. And in the name of politics, all those with past sins are forgiven the moment they work hand-in-hand with Pakatan.
Arul Kanda, President of BN component parties, all sat with the rest of the guests an delegations. Mahathir, however, was given a seat on the stage with DAP’s central executive committee members.
So, is Mahathir a DAP member? Maybe, Malaysiakini can answer this question.
I simply do not comprehend the fuss that is being kicked up by Mahathir’s fanatics. On one hand they want the transparency that none of us got when Mahathir was the Prime Minister; on the other they are fuming because Mahathir, Nor Mohamed Yackop and Anwar have been implicated in the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) for the Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) foreign exchange scandal of the 1990s.
Mahathir’s long-time crony Daim Zainuddin, who served as finance minister from 14 July 1984 to 15 March 1991, for having aided and abetted Nor Mohamed by leaving BNM “to its own devices”.
Let us ask the very man whose perseverance has finally paid off:
Yes. The loss of RM31.5 billion through forex gambling was and still is a crime against the Malaysian people. And if it weren’t for Lim Kit Siang’s persistence and perseverance, we would not have gotten where we are now.
Three people have been found principally liable for the criminal breach of trust and should be probed further over their involvement and liability. They are the former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, his then-Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim, and ex-BNM advisor Nor Mohamed Yackop.
The commission found in its 524-paged report that the Cabinet in the 1990s was not given the full picture by Anwar on the forex losses, adding that he had “deliberately concealed facts and information and made misleading statements“. It is also of the opinion that the then Prime Minister (Mahathir) had condoned the actions of the Finance Minister.
The RM31.5 billion losses, the report said, were hidden using “unconventional accounting treatments”, such as booking losses to reserves in the balance sheet and the absorption of the remaining losses by the transfer of shares from the Government to BNM as well as the creation of a “Deferred Expenditure” to be repaid in instalments over a decade.
The RCI noted that Anwar Ibrahim, the then Finance Minister, had been informed about the actual forex losses suffered by BNM. It also said that Mahathir was informed by Anwar together with then Treasury deputy secretary-general Tan Sri Clifford Francis Herbert in late 1993 that BNM had suffered estimated losses of RM30 billion on the forex dealings for 1992 and 1993.
However, in the extract of minutes from three Cabinet meetings on March 30, April 6 and 13 in 1994, Anwar had made “no mention of the actual losses of RM12.3 billion for 1992 and RM15.3 billion for 1993.”
Anwar had chaired the March 30 meeting as the deputy prime minister. The losses for 1993 were reported as RM 5.7 billion.
The RCI also noted that the prime minister, who chaired the meeting on April 6, did not correct or offer more information when the forex losses for 1993 were recorded as only RM5.7 billion.
The RCI report said as pointed out by Herbert, he had expected Mahathir to be outraged but his reaction was quite normal with him uttering “sometimes we make profit, sometimes we make losses”.
“His reaction to and acceptance of the huge forex losses suggest that he could have been aware of the forex dealings and its magnitude,” said the report.
Why Did It Take So Long?
Of course supporters of Mahathir got their knickers in a knot over the RCI findings, mostly harp on the duration it took to have a RCI formed, whether it was formed to time itself with the looming general elections so that the Pakatan Harapan would be epitome of broken hopes?
Lim Kit Siang may have harped on the matter, trying to get an RCI formed since 1994, if not earlier. Mahathir was the Prime Minister then until the end of 2003. No one during Pak Lah’s time took up the issue as Mahathir was then breathing down Pak Lah’s neck watching the latter’s every move. In the end, Mahathir got Pak Lah ousted for not playing his game his way.
When Najib Razak took over at the beginning of the second quarter of 2009, Malaysia’s economy had shrunk even though oil price was high. The GDP growth rate for Malaysia in 2009 was -2.5 percent because of the global financial crisis then, hence Najib Razak’s priority then was to safeguard the economy and take measures to improve on the GDP growth.
And ever since then Najib had been fighting on all fronts to make sure that Malaysia goes through a sustainable growth, and that there would be enough government money to still help the people, especially those from the B40 income group. Hence, we see various initiatives like the 1Malaysia Clinic, Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (which is now being revamped), BR1M, PR1MA and various other 1Malaysia initiatives.
And while all that was happening, Lim Kit Siang was still going around asking for an RCI to be formed for the BNM forex scandal. In the run up to the 13th General Elections, Lim Kit Siang wrote this on the BNM forex scandal:
“I had estimated in Parliament two decades ago that Bank Negara lost a colossal RM30 billion from the Bank Negara foreign exchange scandal under Mahathir’s premiership. But Bank Negara claimed RM10.1 billion loss in 1992 and RM5.7 billion in 1993 while former Bank Negara Deputy Governor Dr. Rosli Yaakop estimated last year at a public forum that Bank Negara lost between USD27 to USD33 billion, which was five times more than its foreign reserves and its entire assets of USD20.7 billion in 1992.”
You can read more on what Dr Rosli Yaakop had said on the BNM forex scandal HERE.
Lim Kit Siang also said that Malaysian voters should not only pass a verdict on Najib’s non-transformation in the past four years, but also pass judgment on Mahathir’s 22 years of authoritarian and corrupt policies when he was Prime Minister from 1981 – 2003. He said:
“I am on public record as saying that if Pakatan Rakyat is to capture Putrajaya in the 13GE, we should re-open investigation not only on the RM30 billion Bank Negara forex scandal of 1992, there should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the RM100 billion losses suffered by the country in the financial scandals of the 22-year Mahathir era.”
Kit Siang added that the voters should decide whether they endorse the proposal to have a wide-ranging public inquiry into Mahathir’s financial scandals in 22 years which have cost the country RM100 billion of losses and for which the present generation of Malaysians are still paying the price – although there is totally no accountability and transparency about these glaring instances of corruption, cronyism and abuses of power for more than three decades.
In June 2017, Lim Kit Siang even wanted the report recommending the RCI to be made public. Finally, on 8 August 2017, the RCI commenced, and Kit Siang’s 25 years of wait ended.
And one other Pakatan leader who had been lying very low beneath the BNM forex scandal radar is Anwar Ibrahim. If anyone was to ask why did the government not do anything between 2004 and 2017, the answer would be why hadn’t Anwar, since 2 September 1998, asked for an RCI on the matter? Was he afraid that he might get implicated?
You and I know the answer to that now.
And what about the 1MDB scandal? Well, unlike the BNM forex scandal, the 1MDB case was investigated by the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, the Royal Malaysian Police, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. Police reports were also made against 1MDB. But not a single sen had gone missing!
For the BNM forex scandal, this is the first time that it has been investigated – by the RCI, and soon by the Royal Malaysian Police. And the first police report was made by a member of the RCI itself after the RCI findings report was published – 25 years after the whole thing happened.
So, we should all say our thank you to Lim Kit Siang for exposing this crime against ALL Malaysians. Thank you, Lim Kit Siang – for persistently asking for your good friends to be investigated.