“Ask him to count how many people became thieves when he was in power…….”

I came across the above comment by CK in an article whose title I have long since forgotten. What I have not forgotten was what CK asked us to ask of Mahathir:

“ASK HIM TO COUNT HOW MANY PEOPLE BECAME THIEVES WHEN HE WAS IN POWER”…

Thief:
• Somebody who steals something especially with the intention of escaping notice.

Steal:
• To take something that belongs to somebody else illegally or without the owner’s permission.
• To take or get something secretly or through trickery
• To take something that another person has created, and present it as your own.

CK’s line captured the essence of the Mahathir’s time in government and identifies the main preoccupation that has defined UMNO and Barisan Nasional ever since.

In his person, it can be argued that Mahathir was not corrupt while in office. He was not interested in amassing insane personal wealth. He did not suffer fools gladly and his work ethics were exemplary. One thing and one thing only colored everything that he did – the acquisition of power within himself. In the acquisition of this power, he was enormously successful and became blind to everything else.

Blind to the need of check and balances in the business of government. Blind to his duty as an elected representative to be responsible and accountable to the people for what he did. And he was certainly blind to what harm the wielding of that power did to our people and to our country – damage that irreversibly and irrefutably caused the breakdown of the very fabric of society that we have known for as long as we have lived.

There were the adverse economic costs that his irresponsible grandiose schemes, mega projects and Malaysia Inc. – all manifestation of his insistence to use the power within himself to do as he pleases unchecked – had cost our country. A cost that ran into the billions of ringgits. A debt to be paid back by us, our children and by many generations to come. In his self-absorbed pursuit of power, Mahathir used everything at his disposal to acquire power and excused anything else to keep it.

The tender system used to purchase what our government required became the quintessential way by which so many of these newly acquired thieving skills of UMNO and Barisan Nasional were deftly honed upon. The tender system was skewered to serve Mahathir’s purposes via the politics of patronage. Those who served Mahathir and UMNO vested interest were rewarded with government contracts and projects. Tenders by invitation only, tenders by negotiations and ways and means were perfected to ensure its award were only to preferred parties as identified by those in power. The tender process became flawed to serve Mahathir’s and UMNO’s interest. And once this process was flawed it was abused at all levels.

Every process of the tender system became a way of making money for the enterprising government servant and others. From the time when a requirement was identified to the tendering out process to the evaluation of it and then to the purchase and its payment process, and if required its maintenance – all along the line money could and was made by those involved in the process – all at great costs to our country.

Thus started the thieving of our country resources by many government servants and politicians – and the culture of materialism was born. Now everything to be done in government had a price – from haggling with the policeman to ‘selesai’ a minor traffic infringement to the building of the RM$20 billion Putrajaya.

The more power he acquired the greater his ability to reward those who served his purpose – a vicious circled that preyed on the inherent greed of men. None can deny the power that Mahathir wielded was absolute. And in having that absolute power he corrupted the process of government absolutely.

The Sultans became thieves under Mahathir. They were rewarded by being allowed to continue with their useless and ostentatious lifestyle at our expense if they did Mahathir’s bidding. They got something for doing nothing (is that not thieving?). If they dared to cross Mahathir, they were abused and punished.

The Mentri Besar did Mahathir’s bidding and structured Cawangans, Bahagians and Negri level within UMNO into factions with leaders who only had loyalty to Mahathir and financial rewards came with it. We have yet to meet a Mentri Besar from the Mahathir era that retired poor! Ketua Bahagians and Negri were little Napoleons of the great wealth and unbridled power in as long as it served Mahathir’s purposes. One of the most memorable examples of these thieves chosen personally by Mahathir to be Mentri Besar, is that dentist now convicted of corruption – Khir Toyo. All these thieves given respectability through politics under UMNO led by Mahathir!

Ministers were thieves for the many financial rewards they obtained for putting up with the Mahathir and his megalomaniac ways of doing government. They put up with everything that Mahathir wanted to do in Cabinet because in him they knew rested their career in politics and their financial rewards for services faithfully rendered to Mahathir. This was thieving on a grand scale with legitimacy conferred at the highest level in the land – the Cabinet.

When the highest echelons of government are themselves thieves – what more its people. And that is why I say that CK got the essence of Mahathir’s era when he said this of Mahathir’s time in government:

“Ask him to count how many people became thieves when he was in power”…

What a damming indictment of Mahathir who dares to think that he could be one of our greatest Prime Minister! Greatest my [email protected]*! He would be more at home amongst Field Marshal Idi Amin, Emperor Bokassa or Papa Doc of Haiti – all leaders diseased with the need to have power within themselves oblivious to the need of the people and the country they serve. All leaders dammed by history and considered buffoons when pitted against Ang Sang Sui Kyi and Mandela. Our tragedy is that we already have such a buffoon in Mahathir!

First posted by Hussein abdul Hamid on Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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