There was a minor brouhaha last night in the mainstream media when an article by New York Times was published. The article was regarding an interview with Tun Mahathir Mohamad.
The New York Times’ correspondent had requested to meet the former premier for an exclusive interview and as the result, the article was not well received by the pro-Najib’s camp.
It’s funny to think that the Prime Minister had to pay APCO more than RM70 million to boost his personal image overseas yet Tun Mahathir is perceived to have negated that image without any cost incurred.
They are actually a couple of harmless articles with no new stories or revelation. Basically what Tun said in the interview was nothing new.
But the Foreign Minister, in his haste had lambasted the article and threw misdirected criticisms towards the former premier.
The problem is, Anifah Aman did not know what he was saying. Maybe because he did not read Tun Mahathir’s interview in the New York Times. Or maybe he did read it, but chose to understand only what is convenient to him.
The said interview, which received widespread ire from desperate people in the administration can be summarised below. Tun Mahathir said a few things ranging from the recent pandemonium about a gymnast’s outfit, to the Rohingya issue. We are only going to take the part which stated Tun Mahathir’s opinion about the things that made Anifah Aman jittery.
On the current prime minister:
On the prime minister’s wife, Rosmah Mansor:
“She projects herself too much. Normally, the wife of the prime minister should be in the background supporting the husband.”
On the reasons he has turned against his anointed successors three times:
“They all looked good to me before they held power, but they don’t seem to manage power. They seem to think that power is to satisfy their own ambition. Power is there to serve the people. It’s not for enriching yourself and living a high life.”
On why Umno lacks vision and talented people:
“The little Napoleons in UMNO try to keep out people who are more intelligent than themselves,”
On Western-style democracy in Asia:
“If you look at the history of democracy, initially it was all about the right of the people to choose their own leaders. Since then, we have added more things to democracy. You must have this freedom and that freedom. I know what is wrong about democracy. It is when people interpret it wrongly. And they seem to think that liberty, freedom is absolute. It’s not.”
From the excerpt above, we can see that there is nothing about condemning Malaysia. Tun Mahathir did not go the way of Lim Guan Eng when the latter defamed Johor as a crime hub in an event held overseas.
Importantly, whatever Tun Mahathir had said, has been said before. Everybody knows this.
Below is Anifah Aman’s ‘open letter’ to the New York Times:
OPEN LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITOR
1. It is regrettable to see Tun Mahathir seeking to undermine his own country in the international media as part of a personal political vendetta.
From the NYT article, he did not undermine his own country. He only criticised the Prime Minister and Umno. If the Prime Minister could not stand the heat then get out from the kitchen.
2. It is irresponsible of any citizen, let alone a former prime minister, to spread lies and distortions about state owned companies – saying for example that RM42 billion is missing from 1MDB to create public anxiety, when in fact these are audited debts backed by RM51 billon assets. These reckless claims have affected market sentiment towards Malaysia.
There is a lot of problems with 1MDB otherwise debt rationalisation would not have taken place and Anifah Aman would not have been given the ultimatum to resign in order to silence him from criticising 1MDB. In this regard, the ultimatum worked. Hence, this open letter was duly written.
Plus, even Bank Negara had refuted the claims that Tun Mahathir’s attacks had affected market sentiment. Anifah Aman should be more up-to-date with his writing.
3. Furthermore, it is telling that he continues to mount his attacks, rather than wait for the findings of the enquiries currently being undertaken by Malaysia’s central bank, Auditor General, and parliament’s bipartisan Public Accounts Committee. This shows that Tun Mahathir is not interested in answers from the appropriate lawful authorities. Rather, he is just using 1MDB as an excuse to topple the serving prime minister, Najib Tun Razak.
Anifah Aman should know that the interim AG report will not be made public and the PAC investigation may take up to one year to complete. This shows that Anifah Aman’s boss is not interested to quickly allay fears and anxiety over the 1MDB issue. Anifah Aman is grasping at straws to keep an incompetent Prime Minister in power.
4. And all because his personal demands, as Tun Mahathir himself has acknowledged, are not being met. Prime Minister Najib, as Malaysia’s democratically elected leader, will do what he thinks is right for the nation, and will not allow rule by proxy.
5. Tun Mahathir told the New York Times that Umno “lacks vision and talented people”, that it “has become a repository of patronage-seeking politicians”, and that members “try to keep out people who are more intelligent than themselves”.
But it is Tun Mahathir who led the party for 22 years. It was he that, during his time, worked to cultivate ‘yes men’ and entrench his position – even introducing a quota system for the Umno presidency to prevent challengers – rather than bringing in talent and strengthening the party. It is Prime Minister Najib who democratised the party constitution to make it far easier to challenge him for his job.How could Tun Mahathir cultivate ‘yes men’ when in the 80’s there were two camps in Umno? And in the 90’s when he sacked Anwar Ibrahim almost half of the Umno leaders left the party to follow the sacked deputy president?
Actually yes-men are people who sees something wrong, but dutifully kept quiet, or worse, begin to malign a former premier for asking questions and telling the truth. Yes-men will do biddings like a good attack dog, barking away making noises just to protect their own self interests.
And there is no truth that Najib had democratised the party. In fact, the new voting system had made it easier for him to hold on to power. Instead of controlling nearly 3,000 voting delegates, he now just have to control only about 190 division leaders. These division leaders in turn, control the branch leaders in their division. While the branch leaders then instruct their members on who to vote. As the result, there were no changes in party leadership since 2009 and this is a fact. The 2013 party elections saw the same people being voted into power; from the presidency, deputy presidency, vice presidents, women and youth wings.
As for Umno lacked vision and talented people, well that is a matter of opinion. Stupid people might think they have vision and talent, that is why they created 1MDB; and cabinet ministers had approved its existence.
6. For Tun Mahathir to accuse Prime Minister Najib of acts “verging on criminal” is simply outrageous, and entirely false. It is a measure of the reforms put in place under Prime Minister Najib’s administration that Tun Mahathir has the freedom to be so vocally critical of the party and government he once led.
Tun Mahathir was talking about 1MDB, not the so called reforms. With all the incidents of poor governance, corruption and abuse of power surrounding 1MDB, it is not illogical to say that the Prime Minister is indeed acting on the verge of criminality.
7. But Dr Mahathir is abusing that freedom, and his privileged standing as a former prime minister, to indulge in reckless and baseless personal smears against Prime Minister Najib and his family. Most Malaysians would rather see Dr Mahathir retire gracefully than continue to damage the standing of his own country for personal political gain.
Anifah Aman, please stop being a yes-man and start become a man. Start giving proper advice during cabinet meetings. For example start telling the Prime Minister to contain the show of luxury and opulent lifestyle his wife is indulging. Start asking the relevant questions about 1MDB and make a stand. Since we all know cabinet ministers are clueless about 1MDB, there is no harm to poke your nose into their business since you are our proxy.
The one that is damaging the standing of his own country is the Prime Minister and his coterie of yes-men. You are included. Because currently, to be something other than a yes-man will be damaging for your personal political gain.
Furthermore, it is very unusual for a foreign minister to issue an open letter to the editor of a foreign press. Usually Wisma Putra will send a letter directly to the intended publication.
But maybe for the chance to be seen as a Najib loyalist, Anifah issued the letter as a political oneupmanship to out-do the other yes-men.
And by the way Anifah Aman, if you must know, a statesman like Tun Mahathir is impervious to personal political gain. He is a 90 year old man who wants to see that Malaysians deserve a better country.
Will Anifah Aman have the testicular fortitude to do what is right? Only time will tell. After all, nobody wants to leave a legacy to be known only as a yes-man.
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