Khairulorama- Life and work notes

Pain is the predecessor of success.

1.3. Dr M on BBC Part 3

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Lyse Doucet:
You do all the time, sir – this is your trademark.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well in Malaysia we manage and I think it shows that it can be done if you want to do it. Unfortunately, if the wrong people get into a place of power – for example, if the Islamic party in Malaysia were to become the government of this country, we’d see horrible things.

Lyse Doucet:
You might have to ban them then?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
No, if they are in power I can’t ban them, they can ban me.

Lyse Doucet:
But they would say that it’s the way that your labelling them that helps to create divide between the Muslims because you say that they are not real Muslims.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
It is true. If you look at the two states which are ruled by them, they have become the most backward states in the country.

Lyse Doucet:
But they were voted in there – it’s a democracy obviously people did support them and they could win even more seats in the next election.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
I think there is this feeling that the majority of the people must be right. But some people just do not know how to distinguish between good and bad. They think that these people, because they are called the Islamic Party, they must be Islamic but they are not.

Lyse Doucet:
But they quadrupled their vote in the last election – that’s what the people decided.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
It was the circumstances – there were times when we beat them hollow, there are other times when they win – they made use of certain issues in order to get popular votes – this will happen all the time, that’s what democracy is all about.

Lyse Doucet:
We have an e-mail from Avesta, Iraq: Why did Muslim leaders keep silent on Saddam’s crimes? Why did they support him? Where were the Muslims when the dictator killed us?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well Saddam has committed crimes but so have others – a lot of others have committed crimes about which the whole world is aware of. There were lots of crimes in Africa – 5 million were killed – more than in Iraq but nobody does anything about it because there’s no oil there. We think that there is an agenda which is quite different. Yes, Saddam is bad and a dictator and all that – but there are dictators everywhere. If you want to take action, take action against everybody. Why pick on Iraq?

Lyse Doucet:
But, for example, you have picked on Iraq. You have condemned the Americans for invading Iraq and Afghanistan but even Iraqis and Afghans would say well we had to turn to the United States because our Muslim brothers let us down.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
What we see is that they are now shooting Americans in Iraq. They don’t seem to welcome them as liberators. It was a different scene that you saw after the last war when the American troops reached Paris and all the girls kissed them. But today we don’t see that thing happening in Iraq.

Lyse Doucet:
But did events in Iraq and Afghanistan make you reconsider the role of Muslim leadership in the world? You’ve called for unity among Muslims and as Shah Jahan said, if Muslims worked together to try to solve these problems, if they were critical of atrocities and oppression within their own ranks, perhaps they could solve the problems themselves without having to resort to the West.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Yes, but it is not so easy to be critical when you yourself are subjected to attacks from the West. People are critical of Malaysia where we are told that we are being ruled by a dictator called Mahathir – I have to be elected to be a dictator and now I am a dictator who is stepping down. But this kind of distorted vision of the world is what is creating problems in this country. They make no difference between me and Saddam Hussein.

Lyse Doucet:
Shah Jahan are you still on the line from Pakistan?

Shah Jahan Bhatti:
I would like to draw the attention of Dr Mahathir Mohamad to world affairs among the European and Americans who fear that the world’s technology will be used against them and that’s why the transfer of technology is so slow. If the Muslim leadership does not come forward and allay the fears of the Europeans and Americans, I don’t think the Muslim world will be sensible enough to understand the disastrous situation they are confronting today.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well I think we can get access to technology if you want to – in fact in Malaysia we have access to technology because we are not using it in the wrong way and I think people trust us and all other Muslims can do the same.

Lyse Doucet:
What do you mean about this – acquiring technology – you’ve said to Muslims, knowledge can free us, you’ve talked about cars, aeroplanes – what about technology like nuclear power? Do you think that Muslim states need that as well, to take your phrase, to strike fear in the hearts of the enemy?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
My view is that nobody should have any nuclear weapons – whether you are good countries or bad countries, powerful countries or weak countries – you should not use nuclear power. It is an inhuman way of killing people in order to achieve a political end – that is very bad. I don’t even agree with this continuous development of so-called conventional weapons which are costing more and more and that money can be spent in other ways to help people rather than to improve the efficiency of killing people. It is very primitive as far as I’m concerned. So I don’t the Muslims should have nuclear weapons and I don’t think America or Britain or France or anybody else should have nuclear weapons. The best thing we can do is to get rid of all nuclear weapons.

Lyse Doucet:
One policy for all. A number of callers have raised the issue of racial discrimination and we heard comments from Noorul here in Malaysia. We had an e-mail from PT, in the United Kingdom who asks: Don’t you consider the system under which one race of people, Bumiputras, have special privileges based solely on their race, to be a kind of apartheid in disguise?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
It is not based solely on their race, it is based on the fact that they are far behind the others in their economic development and this disparity will cause tension within the community and can end up with violence. We have seen this happen and we have a duty to reduce the disparity because this is what is causing the bad feeling between different communities. In America you have affirmative action – of course you went to the court and said that it is against the constitution. But here every race in Malaysia supports this policy otherwise why do they keep on returning the same government to power every time?

Lyse Doucet:
We’ve had an e-mail Tan Chin Look, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: As a Malaysian Chinese, I feel that I have been treated as a second class citizen, and I am definitely not the only one who feels this way. Why haven’t you done more to allow the citizens of Malaysia to be treated equally so that we would all feel that we truly belong to this country that we love?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well the Malays feel that they are second class citizens despite all their privileges because they are the poor people. They have to work as drivers for the very rich Chinese. So they that they are second class – so both are second class, there’s no first class.

Lyse Doucet:
Let’s take a caller from Singapore – Avinash Chandramouli. Avinash, what is your question?

Avinash Chandramouli:
Hello Dr Mohamad. I was hearing all your comments about Islam and Sharia law and one of my primary concerns is that PAS, the opposition party in Malaysian, is very known for their maxims of introducing very radical fundamental elements of Sharia law in Malaysia’s already very fragile legal system. Already they have a majority in two states and are creating havoc in those two states and those states are extremely backward. Can this party be controlled and completely stopped from creating havoc in Malaysia or is it a possibility that under Abdullah Badawi, your successor, is it possible that this party can actually extend its influence?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
We are a democratic country, we allow the freedom to form political parties and to campaign for public support. But of course if they step over the laws and they break the laws, we have a right to take action against them. They cannot ask for any law they like unless it is conformity with the provisions of the national constitution. So to enforce the law, they need the police – the police are a federal police and the police will not act unless of course the federal government says that the laws that are going to be implemented are legal – if they are not legal they cannot implement them.

They pose a threat to this country, but I don’t think the majority of people in this country are going to support this party. For one thing, there are only 60% Muslims in Malaysia and 40% are non-Muslim and all political parties require the support of the non-Muslims in order to win and rule this country. So there is no likelihood that this party can gain power and pass laws which are unfair to the races in Malaysia. Those laws are not even Islamic – they are against Islam.

Lyse Doucet:
You mentioned a number of times that you see PAS as a threat to Malaysia. But what about the threat though posed by Jemaah Islamiah? Because they’re now described by the international crisis group as being damaged but still dangerous after the trials for the Bali bombings that have been taking place in Indonesia. Do you worry there still could be cells here in Malaysia?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Yes, there will be cells in Malaysia, but by and large they are a small minority and we can deal with them. There are sufficient laws in this country to deal with such groups of people. We are not worried about it. That’s why, as I said just now, long before 9/11 we had taken action – of course we were criticised for taking action against them – these are preventive laws. They would like these people to explode bombs and kill people before we take action.

Lyse Doucet:
Your talking about the Internal Security Act, the ISA, which has been criticised even here in Malaysia?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Yes it is criticised in Malaysia but there are lots of people who support it.

Lyse Doucet:
But there are those who say it is so draconian. People can be held up to two years without any charges, without evidence against them.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Do we do that just for fun?

Lyse Doucet:
But does it have to be so draconian? Even your human rights organisations – the Bar Council has said it should be moderated.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
The Bar Council will have its own say all the time – it is almost like an opposition party, the Bar Council. But the fact is that it is better to prevent the crime from happening than to let the crime happen and then punish the criminal. Here we know these people have got bad intentions. They want to explode bombs, they want to kill people and we say, he’s not being killed yet, they are just aiming the gun at him and he hasn’t shot anyone yet – let him shoot first and then we’ll arrest him – is that the way we treat a situation like this?

Lyse Doucet:
Do you anguish sometimes because in some countries if you crack down too hard on what you regard as Islamic threats it could backfire and it could actually increase sympathy?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
No.

Lyse Doucet:
Because some would say that you’re action against Anwar Ibrahim actually increased support for the opposition including for the PAS and hence their showing in the 1999 elections?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
I didn’t take action against Anwar Ibrahim other than to tell him that he is no longer wanted in the government. The rest follows the law. The law of this country says that you cannot ask a police officer to threaten people because that is abuse of power – that was what he was tried for.

Secondly, you can’t go around sodomising people, that is against the law and he was tried in a court of law for nine months, defended by the best lawyers that he could find and he was found guilty by a judge who took the trouble to write his judgement – 380 pages of judgement – and he was sentenced according to the law.

I did not just throw him into jail under the ISA, he was tried. Of course, had the court decided that he was not guilty everybody will say this is great. But if we were to detain him under the preventive laws then you say well he’s not tried – when you are tried, you say the court is being manipulated by the government – you can’t win – you can’t win.

Lyse Doucet:
Well return to the political questions a bit later. We’re going to take a caller now from Brazil. Luciano Monteiro, what is your question for Dr Mahathir?

Luciano Monteiro:
Good morning Dr Mahathir. Nowadays the world economy is led by a few rich countries, especially the United States and the European Union, whereas most developing countries have been stripped of their economic autonomy and treated as second class nations. However at the last WTO conference in Mexico, it saw 22 countries courageously standing up for positions that improved the lot of developing countries. Because of the action of this group, the US and EU were unable to push their agricultural policies and the meeting came to a deadlock.

Agriculture was the main issue but the problem goes far beyond it. The G22 initiative, led basically by Brazil, India and South Africa, is an attempt to restore a multi-polar balance of power in the world so that more countries can have say in deciding the world’s future. Many Asian countries have taken part; India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and as far as know Malaysia has stood out of it. Wouldn’t you agree that it would benefit Malaysia to join forces with other countries in the developing world in order to assert its rights instead of submitting to the threat of economic retaliation on the part of the rich countries?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Are you saying that Malaysia did not support the Group of 22? I can’t believe this because our minister was among the people right in front condemning the action taken by the attempt to force the developing countries to accept the agenda prepared by the rich countries and yet you are saying that we are not with you. All I can say is that everybody else acknowledged that Malaysia was the first to make a stand about this and this is our policy.

We have always been saying that we cannot allow the rich countries to bully us in the WTO and force an agenda prepared by them to be accepted by us. I don’t know where you get your information. But if you like you can get the verbatim report from the Cancun meeting.

Lyse Doucet:
Thank you Luciano for calling us all the way from Brazil. Let me return back to this idea of the clash of civilisations – again when it comes to globalisation on which you have been a very strong critic. Isn’t it more the case that the West and the Islamic world can actually cooperate in ways that the Islamic world can take what’s good from the West, as some Islamic leaders put it, and reject what they regard as bad? For example, your country, it is said, aside from Singapore, has been the country in the world to benefit the most from trading with the United States – your development has been developed along these lines – so can’t you see it less in terms of black and white?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
We appreciate what they have done – the investments by American companies – we have no problem with them. But it is a different thing of course if you want to come in and take over the economy and this is what will happen if you allow the giant banks and companies to come into Malaysia without any restriction and to literally push aside all our companies and maybe take them over or bankrupt them. That is something that we cannot appreciate. So we made a distinction.

Lyse Doucet:
So the West is not all bad?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
I never said that the West was all bad. But the West must accept that when you do wrong you must face criticism. As much as when we do wrong, you criticise us far beyond it just being justified.

Lyse Doucet:
Let’s take another caller. Dominic Nardi is on the line from Washington in the United States. Dominic, welcome, your question?

Dominic Nardi:
Dr Mahathir, good morning, it is a great honour to speak to you. I want to ask you a question about Burma. Soon after the military regime in Burma arrested Aung San Suu Kyi over the summer, you stated that you were very disappointed with the turn of events in Burma and as a last resort ASEAN should consider expelling Burma. Since then the Burmese government has made very little progress – it has made some superficial changes – but it has not released many details for its proposed roadmap and has not said when it would release Aung San Suu Kyi. Don’t you think it’s time for ASEAN to take some stronger measures against Burma – possibly consider even expelling Burma from ASEAN?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Yes, when you expel people you lose contact and you can do nothing any more beyond that unless of course you are a great power which can apply sanctions etc. and in the process of course make the people of Burma suffer and not their government. So we tried to find a way out of this and the Burmese people or Myanmar people have done something to show that they are trying to comply and we should appreciate the little progress that they have made.

It is not so easy to rule a country like Myanmar where they have 100 different ethnic groups – most of them are rebels and they carry guns and machine guns and bombs. That is the kind of country that has to be ruled – it is not so easy. Merely because you release Aung San Suu Kyi – and they have done before – it does not solve the problem. There are lots of other problems and we have to give people a chance to manage their own country. We are talking from outside. You have to be there to see what is the problem that is faced by their government. We do not expel people unless it is the last resort – we said last resort – but we haven’t reached that stage yet.

Lyse Doucet:
Indeed Dr Mahathir, several people e-mailed us, asking us this question about speaking up for human rights and human rights when it comes to the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi. They raised similar concerns to Dominic – especially leaders in this region – shouldn’t they do something to try to improve democracy in the wider region?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
We try, we try but it is not easy. Some people think that democracy is a medicine that can cure all ills, it is not, it can create more trouble also. If you don’t understand democracy, you’ll have anarchy.

Lyse Doucet:
You yourself took a trade delegation to Burma – you said that didn’t work – the sanctions you don’t want. So what’s left then? Would the release of Aung San Suu Kyi be a bad thing for Burma?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
It wouldn’t be a bad thing but we will have to progress slowly. We have to persuade them to do what we think is right.

Lyse Doucet:
A number of people also wanted to ask you about your retirement and your thoughts as you step down. Ahmed, Male’ in the Maldives who asks: What would be your advice to those Asian leaders who refuse to step down after half a century in power?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Advise Asian leaders? No, I don’t think I should advise Asian leaders. I can tell myself what I should do but I don’t tell other people what they should do. As far as I am concerned, I’ve worked for 22 years and I think it is time to retire – so I retire.

Lyse Doucet:
An e-mail from Michael, Brisbane, Australia asks: Do you see a move toward fundamentalist Islam coming to Malaysia after your retirement?

Do you think that Mr Abdullah Badawi, your replacement, will be able to deal with the strength of Islam in your country? The threat, as you called it.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
It is not I who dealt with these Muslim groups. But as I said, I’m a fundamentalist, they are not. The government, the cabinet is still there. So when I go, the cabinet is still there so they can deal with it.

Lyse Doucet:
Mr Abdullah is an Islamic scholar, will he have an easier time with it than you do you think?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Maybe.

Lyse Doucet:
Is it his greatest challenge do you feel, dealing with the Islamic opposition before the 2004 elections?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
Well it will be one of the challenges and I think he can deal with it.

Lyse Doucet:
Or his main challenge?

Dr Mahathir Mohamad:
One of the challenges will be of course the use of Islam in order to subvert people and to create hatred between Muslims – that is one of his challenges.

Lyse Doucet:
Dr Mahathir Mohamad thank you very much for joining us here on Talking Point, just weeks before you step down after 22 years in power. We want to give a special thank you for taking part and of course we want to thank all of you who called us and e-mailed us right around the world including Malaysia itself. You can keep sending us your e-mails to Talkingpoint@bbc.co.uk and of course you can find this programme and other talking points at http://www.bbc.co.uk\talkingpoint. I’m Lyse Doucet, from me and the rest of the Talking Point team here in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, goodbye for now.

Written by khairulorama

May 15, 2007 at 2:35 pm

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