Mahathir is Dead: Long live the Mahathir Dilemma
A TENOR ON A NOTE TOO HIGH
When Yeoh Sock Ping invited Luciano Pavarotti to perform for Dr. Mahathir in 1993, he was repaying a favour to a man whose backing and patronage could and did open doors for the infrastructure giant YTL in Malaysia and abroad.
Yeoh Tiong Lay (better known by the acronym YTL), was in fact and in plain English paying Dr. Mahathir, (not in cash well not at least on that occasion) but in kind for favours Dr. Mahathir had granted Yeoh and his company YTL. It was a small gesture of gratitude from Yeoh to Dr. Mahathir for one of many valuable favours Dr. Mahathir dished out to his “friends” like Yeoh he considered ‘special cases’.
There were many more favours Dr.Mahathir bestowed on Yeoh as he had done for a select group of hitherto unknown start up Malaysian entrepreneurs during his tenure as Malaysia’s prime minister. Tony Fernandez being another one and a more high profile of this class of beneficiary.
Yeoh failed when he tried to seize on behalf of YTL 80% of Gordon Wu’s Consolidated Electric Power Asia (CEPA). That transaction if it had succeeded would have catapulted YTL into Asia’s largest independent power producer. The listing of his company suffered some drawbacks as well but that did not dent his status or fortunes as a business giant thanks largely to the generosity of Dr. Mahathir Mohamed.
Mark Twain once noted, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principle difference between a dog and a man.”
Dr. Mahathir will not find a solitary “starving dog” he picked up and made successful (except perhaps Tony Fernandez) coming to his defence today. That’s because of the difference between dog and man and the way these “dogs” rose above the rest of us. Any association today with Dr. Mahathir now could have dire implications for those “dogs” in Dr. Mahathir’s hour of need.
FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES READING FROM THE SAME PAGE-THE BIBLE
Yeoh like most Chinese businessmen knows that it helps to have friends in high places when doing business in Asia and the developing world. In Malaysia, no one was higher (in a position of power and in a high place) than Mahathir Mohamad, the country’s then visionary prime minister.
That’s not the only common ground Yeoh appears to have shared with Malaysia’s former and formidable prime minister it seems. Christianity it is rumored also binds the two in some respects. In the case of Yeoh, he is an ethnic Chinese and a born-again Christian in a predominantly Muslim country.
In Dr. Mahathir Mohamed’s case it is his activist some say anti Muslim daughter, Marina Mahathir. Once married to a French Christian she is rumored to have secretly embraced Christianity of the Yeoh evangelical variety. At the same time it is believed Marina embraced the destructive, fanatical, religious and political philosophies of the civil societies movement.
The civil societies movement drenched heavy in the anti Islamic political theology of the evangelical Christian right, is as it always has been, inseparable from the political corruption. The two movements are not mutually exclusive. Far from it.
MONEY FOR THE RICH THE MUSIC’S FOR FREE
In defending himself against a widely held perception that not all of his successes were due to that ‘hardworking Chinese’ myth, Yeoh avoids detailing how the extraordinarily (beneficial to him) powerful purchase agreements between his company and Tenaga came about.
Under agreements with Tenaga, Tenaga became obligated under a captive agreement to buy all the electricity that YTL could produce. It was a take-or-pay contract not granted to other independent power operator. It was a sweetheart deal whereby Dr. Mahathir allowed government (Tenaga) to underwrite the success (risk free) of Yeoh’s power business.
That alone was not the entire ingredient for the success of the Tenaga deal. The details of how that deal came about are for another day and perhaps another forum.
Raising funds in the hundreds of millions of dollars from Malaysian state institutions denominated in Malaysian ringgit, to overcome the cost of hedging against foreign-exchange fluctuations and political uncertainty (sovereign risk) was equally if not vital to the success of the Tenaga and several other YTL deals.
Dr. Mahathir knew of each of these deals personally and sanctioned them. The majority of these deals were for the benefit of a largely Chinese community and a couple of Indian entrepreneurs in tow. One of most prominent of these beneficiaries being Dr. Mahathir’s old family friend, Ananda Krishnan.
THE FORTUNATE SON SYNDROME-HOW THE NEP FAILED THE MALAYS
Back to that “unique” relationship between the Mahathir government and YTL (the hardworking Chinese myth) deals were also successful because it had been underwritten by the Mahathir government. Such was the power of the promise by Mahathir’s government to contribute $1 billion towards YTL’s earlier plans to buy CEPA.
(Small diversion here. This is not to suggest that there are no real hardworking Chinese or that all Chinese benefitted from the Mahathir connection.)
The Mahathir commitment to YTL (and others) was an unprecedented act by a government committing taxpayers money to favored businessmen. That too were favours not those who under national policy ought to have benefitted from. The NEP was made to favour the backward Malays and not a select group of upwardly mobile Chinese and an Indian or two.
Yeoh’s response to questions about his special relationship which even Bumiputeras were denied to a large extent drew a response that was classic frontier mentality: “Why shouldn’t the government encourage business? That’s the way of Malaysia Inc.“
No one it appears told Yeoh that if government did encourage business, it is not lawful for it to support one party alone and selectively so at the expense of the state, whilst others have to go begging for what is legitimately theirs.
When such generosity involved hundreds of millions of dollars of tax payer funds the state had no business dishing it out to Yeoh and his fellow travelers in Mahathir’s caravanserai. It is a form of patronage called graft. It is morally and legally repugnant, corrupt and it is unlawful.
CRONYISM MATESHIP AND THE ASIAN WAY
Cronyism finds a comfortable niche in what Dr. Mahathir did in office for his friends and for which he shows no repentance. Instead he now demands on the basis of a rumour alone ( or a string of rumours) that Najib Razak the current prime minister of Malaysia resign from office.
Sadly, Dr. Mahathir and many of those alongside him appear to be totally oblivious as to how the law really works. It was the same situation with Ferdinand Marcos and the family of the late bloody dictator of Indonesia General Suharto.
Each of these dictators (which Mahathir claims he was one in office) believed they had an absolute right to decide extra constitutionally and outside the law who would benefit from the wealth of the nation and how the nation’s wealth was to be ‘shared’. And it appears from Dr. Mahathir’s position in the anti government rhetoric he spews that nothing has changed.
OF DICTATORS BLOOD AND MONEY
Not too different to his ‘special relationship” with this Cukong Yeoh was Mahathir’s relationship to one Vincent Tan. Another Chinese billionaire who came from nowhere to nab the most coveted of all licenses in commerce.
The domestic lottery license Tan had secured for himself was a privilege which gave him a license to print money. Dr. Mahathir did not touch this deal personally but left it to his erstwhile political advisor, a relative and trusted aide to handle.
The man whose identity we will not reveal was the go between who amongst other things was promised a large sum of money and shares in the company to which the license belonged to clinch the lottery gaming license.
The intermediary secured the license for Vincent Tan but was instead sidelined and given shares not in the public company that owned the license but in a private company which he was unable to trade or to do anything with.
Datuk Sri Ram former Court of Appeals judge then a lawyer drew up a set of pleadings for the man in a claim against Vincent Tan in the early 1980’s in an attempt to force Vincent Tan to honour his pledge to the intermediary.
Dr. Mahathir knew or reasonably ought to have known what had transpired in that deal. It was no small fry of a deal but a ground shattering one that could not have gone unnoticed to a man at the helm whose eyes and ears were on everything that went on under his stewardship in Malaysia. He must have known about it.
THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND
The pleadings drafted by Gopal Sri Ram did justice to the Malaysian Bar’s reputation and nothing else. It was a feeble attempt at justice for his client. It failed to plead the relevant facts properly, did not particularize any of the facts as instructed by Mahathir’s former aide and where the function of pleadings is to identify the issues, the resolution of which will determine the outcome of the proceedings, Gopal Sri Ram’s was an opportunity for Vincent Tan’s lawyers (if they were any better than him) to do nothing and still come out victorious.
The difficulty for Dr. Mahathir in joining the ugly loud chorus of opponents of the current prime minister and in calling him corrupt demanding he resign is that he brings no higher morality to the call and exposes himself to his own weaknesses and past conduct thus far also only the subject of rumours.
TWO- BUT NOT OF A KIND- THE NEED FOR COMPROMISE
The current prime minister’s father and his family were independence fighters. They know and value the idea of freedom and the dignity of being independent and sovereign. The same cannot be said of Dr. Mahathir or the current crop of opposition to government. They invite ‘liberal’ invaders as Syria’s and Libya’s opposition did, only to have their nations destroyed and their intellectuals, their brightest and best murdered in the process.
Those who administer the blow torch to government and seek foreign intervention into Malaysia’s so called problems of corruption have failed to identify with clarity what they mean by corruption, where their definitions are to be found in the law and where their evidence other than the gossip in amongst the media and opposition which now includes Dr. Mahathir resides.
There is more and there is much more in minute detail available on transactions that Dr. Mahathir was involved in during his tenure in government as prime minister of Malaysia. The record does not speculate but it explains why it is that Dr. Mahathir now hunts with the hounds after running with the hares for so long. It is personal.
The civil societies movement run out of the US embassy in KL have more than a dossier on the shortcomings of Dr. Mahathir in office. What they have on the man will fill the library of Congress and not all of it is good.
Lets hope that common sense will prevail in the end and that Dr. Mahathir will cease giving media interviews to especially the Australian media who are in possession of material that will embarrass him eventually. They take no prisoners and give no hostage to fortune. They are mercenary and have no interest in the welfare of anyone else apart from themselves.
Australia is largely behind the civil societies drive to destablise Malaysia and the region. And they will continue to run riot with their local trojans till they have a totally compliant man or woman at the helm in Puterajaya.
As John Howard once said during the east Timor crisis he helped to engineer, “The US is the sheriff and in in the region Australia is its deputy“.