What’s Dr M’s apology got to do with it? - By Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Tuesday, January 02, 2018
Malaysiakini : COMMENT | “Never apologise. Never explain. Just get the thing done, and let them howl.” - Agnes Campbell Macphail
I have no idea why people want or need an apology from former prime
minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad. I received a barrage of messages when the
“apology” first surfaced, with the usual commentaries of how it was long overdue and how the opposition could finally move forward. Then the old master qualified his apology – Malay custom, he said – and the same folks who were relishing a fresh start, got into a funk.
What I do not get is this. When Mahathir was committing all these
wrongs he is supposed to be apologising for, he was also getting elected
with a significant majority by a diverse polity of Malaysians, who did
not seem to care about all these ideas Pakatan Harapan is pushing now. At any time when Mahathir was supposed to be doing all those bad
deeds that he needs to apologise for now, the people of Malaysia could
have voted the completely corrupt alliance out, and took a chance on
whatever the opposition was offering. Failing that, they could have
denied the Mahathir regime its two-thirds majority as a sign of dissent. This never happened. I would argue with each electoral victory, Mahathir was demonstrating that he had nothing to apologise for.
I know many people who are slavish supporters of the opposition these
days, who praised Mahathir and condemned the opposition as being only
able to “complain” back in the day. Even when I was part of the state security apparatus and had contact
with opposition figures, activists and people who were sanctioned by the
state, their main complaint – no, not complaint; lament – was that the
majority of Malaysians were not with them.
They were on their own, eking out support from truly marginalised
groups, fighting the system that a majority of Malaysians was in support
of. Even PAS members, who I paradoxically got on with, could not
understand why with all the corruption and state-sanctioned oppression,
the majority o Malaysians voted in the Mahathir regime in record
numbers. Put it this way: The way that people were voting, the rigged
system was redundant.
When the former prime minister says this - “Whether I admit I have done wrong or not is a different matter,” this is the key. I keep telling people that the reason why Mahathir will never
apologise sincerely is because deep down inside, he believes that he has
not done anything wrong. He believes that what he did was necessary to
create the kind of country that the majority of people wanted to live
in, and that these so-called “Asian values” he and his ilk were pushing
trumped anything else the West had to offer.
Furthermore, by embracing the former prime minister, who many in the
opposition have called a tyrant, dictator and worse, the opposition has
acknowledged that the man, his methods and his legacy – the last part is
the most important – is the means by which to “Save Malaysia”. In other words, the opposition has validated his tenure and openly
acknowledged that without him, there will no removing Prime Minister
Najib Abdul Razak.
Last year, when I wrote this –
“Making a pact with the former prime minister and Bersatu is merely by
‘any means necessary’ and to argue otherwise, to make the argument that
the ‘reform’ agenda is still on the table is mendacious, considering the
fact that the Najib refuseniks have been blatant in their old Umno
strategies of garnering the Malay vote, which is what the opposition
claims is the utilitarian value of Mahathir” – I got a whole lot of flak
from opposition types who claimed I was muddying the waters.
Now the opposition can waffle on about “controls” in place to keep
Mahathir in check, but is there any evidence of this? Is there any
evidence that the opposition is a cohesive alliance operating under a
system of rules and regulations that ensure what they say matches up
with what they do? I would argue there is none. However, nobody really cares about this anyway. People who have
decided that Najib has to go – and I am one of those people who think
that BN has to be benched – are willing to believe that Mahathir really
wants to change the system.
Of course, the former prime minister has been hitting all the right notes.
He has talked about bringing back the independence of our public
institutions. He has talked about separation of powers, and most
importantly he has made the opposition comfortable, at least in public,
with his leadership. There is also another way to look at it. Some people close to him
have told me that he believes that his crusade against the current Umno
grand poohbah is a kind of apology. An apology by deed,if not by word,
of all that he wrought during his tenure as the longest-serving
strongman in Asia. They keep telling me, why would a
ninety-something-year-old man attempt to wrest power from his old power
group merely to prop up his son?
After all, here is a man who has not only championed the “Malay”
community, but also vilified it. Here is a man who has never been
politically correct about race relations in this country. Here is a man
who, despite all he has done, could just wash his hands off of the whole
country and retire to whatever nook his long tenure has enabled him to
Put it this way. If Mahathir and the opposition win this election and
undo even a quarter of what he had wrought, that would be better than
even the most sincere of apologies.