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No one is perfect. Everyone has got good and bad points, it is the degree of this positive or negative aspects which should be assessed. Sometimes we are so besotted with a person that we do not see his black side and by the same token, we may be so obsessed with someone’s actions and pronouncements that we fail to see the enormous contributions he makes. We fail to see the wood for the trees.

I like to think that I am politically neutral. I try hard to understand cultural differences through reading and interactions with other races. The internet has enriched my knowledge and put a lot of things into perspectives. I embrace it gleefully and that is how I really find out how some people can be so expressive about things. All the while I thought (naively) that Mahathir was generally loved by everybody seeing that he has made Malaysia progressively modern. His treatment of the judiciary was of course a negative point and also his perceived promotion of cronyism in business through negotiated tenders which resulted in numerous mega projects and made many a multi-millionaire.

Well, negotiated tenders shortened the time taken to complete projects for the benefit of the people. So we have Putrjaya, KLIA, LRT and Sepang Formula One circuit and that awesome Petronas Twin Towers which fill me with so much pride whenever I look at them! At the same time I am painfully aware that this form of project tendering has also caused a lot of problems like shoddy work and unnecessary over provision of infrastructures and there are projects like schools and health clinics which are way too big for the local population and built without proper coordination, for example no proper access road to the building, no water supply and sometimes no electricity so the project was completed fast but the operation was much, much delayed.

During Mahathir’s time before 1998, there were many “wealthy” poster boys in Renong, Malaysia Airlines,among others. Our national airlines was privatised, yes, Mahathir followed his contemporary, Margaret Thatcher’s policy in England who privatised a lot of government’s agencies. So many become wealthy almost overnight. But there were also the likes of Ananda Krishna and Vincent Tan who benefited a great deal from their connection with Mahathir.

In short Mahathir’s contributions, partly through his long tenure (22 years) as the Prime Minister are visible in all segments of the Malaysian society, be it the government civil service ( remember the punch-clock, the name tag and the quality drive?), the democratisation of the education sector, the Technology (remember the multimedia supercorridor MSC?), the development infrastructures ( I ride the Express Rail to and fro KLIA with brimming pride and I remember Tun Mahathir) and the Malaysian psyche (remember “Malaysia Boleh”?), of course this “boleh” culture could sometimes be exaggerated to ludicrous extent! And some people have expressed cynicism towards this and extend it to things negative.

Anyway, despite the perceived suppression of the press and freedom of speech and the judiciary, I must say we had that feel good factor in Malaysia then. The stock market was booming and where everywhere else was experiencing low growth, our country was posting good economic data, that was then till that fateful Asian Financial Crisis in 1997-1998 and yet due to Mahathir’s unorthodox capital control measures we were able to come out of it without having to depend on IMF (International Monetary Fund) with its “punishing financial measures designed to keep us indebted to it!” apart from stoking potential social chaos in the country. Mahathir saved us! His financial measures (previously attacked) are being adopted by countries facing the recent financial meltdown and economic crisis.

Tun Mahathir was a leader with passion in everything he did and he delivered! Hats off to him. A truly great and visionary leader who happened to speak his mind especially against the West (sometimes I must admit, made me cringed!). I am glad I was able to meet him personally and shook his hands on four occasions, two of which after he has stepped down as PM. I had also met his wife, the gentle Tun Siti Hasmah and I will remember her work through BAKTI ( the Association of Ministers’ Wives) for the unfortunate children.

I am rather bewildered by blogs’ postings which are against Mahathir. Some are quite venomous. One even stated he would like to invent a virus so that it will infect people to erase all their memories of Mahathir! And not surprisingly, the blogger is a lawyer! I can understand blogs which belong to the opposition such as Limkitsiang or Tuk Guru Nik Aziz who would not really praise Mahathir.

Then this so called forum this week in Malaysiakini whose participants spoke very badly about Tun. As I was reading through, it dawned upon me that these people would not be able to express themselves silly and freely if not because of Mahathir whose policy on information technology has brought us kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Tun has set a foundation and we are benefiting from its expansion, extension and innovation. These people have every right to express their opinion but surely they must be fair. Even Lim Kit Siang, one of our politicians I most admire, praised Tun on the History channel recent documentary on Mahathir for his vision on MSC. I remember Uncle Kit was incarcerated during Operation Lallang under Tun.

Recently I came across the blog by a Malaysian residing in Adelaide, My! His articles against Mahathir are vexatious and so very personal that I wonder what has the Tun done to deserve such a maligned treatment! He even went to the extent of saying Mahathir was corrupt and he praised Abdullah Badawi for being Mr Clean. This made me smirk as I have seen the abuse during the latter’s tenure which saw the company of his son in law being given a contract to supply buses to RapidKL, ambulances and buses to government health agencies which did not follow specifications. Ambulances which cannot go beyond 60Km/hr, buses with the wrong engine capacity as a result they were so slow as to cause transport problems and many of them now , like those in RapidKL are left idle, unmaintained, causing huge loss to tax-payers. And what about Mr Clean writing a letter of recommendation for his sister in law to get a business deal in the UN Iraq oil for food programme?

I was present at a big convention in 2005 where there were about 1000 people and mind you, this was not a political gathering. Three main speakers spoke on different days, the Prime Minister, the Deputy and the ex-Prime Minister. Most people dozed off half-way of the speeches of the first two and only those in the front row shook their hands as each was leaving after the session. Yet the participants were captivated by Mahathir when he was speaking on the third day and when he was about to leave, you have to see it to believe it, the participants rushed forward, including yours truly and we were almost in a stampede trying to shake his hand. I have a photo to show me extending my hand eagerly and him looking with an amused smile. Such was the love we had for him!

So Tun Mahathir, I know that you are not getting any younger and while you are still with us, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for making Malaysia what it is today, proud and capable. Though not all your missions were accomplished, you can rest assured that the nation feels ever so grateful to you. You built visible towers that endure while your immediate successor promised to produce “towering individuals” that came to naught (really just hot air!). Yes, your detractors lauded Abdullah Badawi for allowing more freedom than you but at what cost? You understand the country and its people better. The way people go on about total freedom of expression in this country is like asking China to practice democracy in its truest form. Can we imagine the socio-political implications and repercussions? Look at Yugoslavia and Iraq, democracy with cruel bloodbath.

We are lucky in Malaysia where our form of democracy and respect for different cultures, political arrangements and social contract have enabled us to grow to this level and thank also to our abundant natural resources. So, can’t we all be grateful and co-exist peacefully? People may say I take a simplistic view but as long as I am happy with it, who would really care, I wonder.

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