Lately, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has been dropping bombs left right and centre….he’s been holding nothing back and really doesn’t seem afraid to speak his mind. We know this because CILISOS was there at his session during the ‘The Cooler Lumpur Festival: Dangerous Ideas’.
But seriously ugaizzzzz, besides his most dangerous idea, a lot of other stuff was said that day. Some were wise, some were funny, and some were just downright s
We’re pretty sure at least some of you would have wanted to be there. Some of you might have even tried to sign up but were too late (we heard signups for his session closed after 3 hours).
But we were there, and here are 7 dangerous bombshells that he dropped.
1. “You don’t need any qualifications to become a politician”
When speaking about his career as a politician, Tun Mahathir said that the best thing about being one was that you don’t need any qualifications to enter politics. He had this to say about the level of qualification needed to be a leader of this country.
“I must tell you that I qualified in the art and science of frying banana fritters. That’s what I did during the war. I used to fry bananas and sell them. And being qualified as a banana fritter fryer, I was regarded as qualified to become Prime Minister.” – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
And remember, this statement came from a man who was the Prime Minister of Malaysia for 22 years.
Unfortunately most of the CILISOS staff never sold banana fritters. Most of us are just banana. No political careers for us. 🙁
Anyway, believe what you want about what he meant by this. He may have meant that his journey started from humble beginnings, he may have been pointing out the standard of qualifications of politicians, or even something else entirely. But let’s not forget that he actually isn’t just a banana fritter fryer, he is an actual doctor who had his own practice back in the day.
What he did not do, however, was discourage people from getting an education. He told the crowd that people needed to read, and that if you did something repeatedly (reading) , you will get better at it.
But if that ain’t explosive enough for you, what about this next one?
2. “Democracy is a dangerous idea…”
Some of you may already be going “Woah, woah, what is he saying?” or “How dare he threaten to take away my democracy??”
Now hold on. Dare we say that he isn’t entirely wrong? Well let us consider that while Egypt may not be the best example of maintaining a leader in power, democracy isn’t without its flaws.
Try reading this article. In it, the author lists down the pros and cons of democracy. But since many of us would already know why we have democracy, let’s look at how democracy can fail.
- Lack of knowledge – People with voting power may not be informed about who and what they are voting for. Giving power to people that are not informed isn’t the best thing la.
- Influence – Mobs have a huge impact on the votes (mob mentality).
- Shortfalls are unavoidable – Democracy is not perfect, just like any other political system.
So when Tun Mahathir says that democracy is dangerous. He may have a point. Democracy is dangerous in the hands of the wrong people. People who can manipulate its flaws for their own personal gain.
Disclaimer: We’re not saying that Malaysia should give up democracy, we just think that we shouldn’t look to democracy as the solution to all of a country’s problems.
Also just to add something that we found really funny. During the session, Tun Mahathir was asked what he thought was the most dangerous idea for post-Lee Kuan Yew Singapore. His answer was just this.
“I think Singapore is in danger of becoming a democracy.” – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Jokes Singapore. We still lub you <3
3. “You don’t go to your girlfriend and ask her to carry a card saying ‘I love you'”
He was actually referring to a situation where if the people love you, they don’t need to carry placards and banners to demonstrate their love. He also mentioned how a leader should not be giving out money (RM3.4 billion to 6.5 million people apparently) to make himself popular.
But his bigger point was that if a leader did worse than his predecessor, if a leader is no longer loved by his people, perhaps he should take responsibility for it.
4. “We should give citizenship to people who have stayed in a place for a long time”
This we admit, may be a sensitive topic to some of us but hear us out before flaming us. Tun Mahathir basically admitted to giving ICs to people who did not have citizenship during his time as Prime Minister.
During the Q&A session, a member of the audience put forward the question of why were ICs given to various immigrants in Sabah. His reply was this.
We believe that when he mentioned Myanmar, he was referring to Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya people, and how we didn’t behave the way Myanmar did when it came to dealing with non-citizens who had been staying in a particular place for a very long time.
You also notice towards the end of the video he says that Tunku Abdul Rahman did it before him. What was not captured in the video was how he said Tunku Abdul Rahman gave citizenship to 1 MILLION PEOPLE who couldn’t communicate in the Malay language yet had been living in Malaysia for so long.
And what Tun Mahathir basically said was, if Tunku did that, why shouldn’t he?
If you want to read more on the matter, this article talks about the Malaysian citizenship issue in Sabah a lot more in depth. But we cannot speak on behalf of Sabahans and we don’t intend to. These are just things that Tun Mahathir said. And we’ll leave it at that for this topic.
5. “We’ll never be mature enough to have media freedom”
Yup, he said it. In fact The Malay Mail Online even talked about how ironic it was that he was once the ‘menace to ideas’ (think Ops Lalang) but ended up going to speak at an event called ‘Dangerous Ideas’.
Tun Mahathir shared a number of views on not just media freedom but freedom of expression as well. One of the more interesting statements was that we’ll never be mature enough to have media freedom. It’s also interesting to note that in the press conference after the event, he said that everyone in Malaysia seems too afraid to speak up these days.
Do these two statements mean that he contradicted himself? Maybe not. Why? Because complete freedom of speech is something that isn’t just an issue in Malaysia but in other countries as well.
A good example would be the recent Charlie Hebdo shooting. Since that incident, people have debated the limits of media freedom. In countries like America, there is this constant tension between press freedom and national security. And if these other countries haven’t resolved this tension, we’ve probably not as well.
So maybe one way of looking at it here isn’t that we fight only to have the right to say whatever we want, but to consider the impact of the things we say.
But does that mean that Tun Mahathir’s contradictions was him trying to strike a balance? We don’t know. But what we do know is that he believes there are limits to freedom, be it press freedom or freedom of expression.
“Taking your clothes off on Mount Kinabalu isn’t what you should do. You take your clothes off even the mountain gods got excited.” – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
6. “Corruption should be kept under the table”
Yeap he said that. Tun Mahathir said that it is better that corruption be a practice that happens in secret.
But here’s the thing. He meant that it is better that corruption stay as something that is hidden rather than openly accepted. In other words, it is better society see corruption as something that is bad and should stay hidden rather than something that is freely practiced in the open.
But then is he saying that Malaysia will never be able to get rid of corruption?
Actually it’s not just Malaysia but the whole world. One common debate on corruption is whether or not it is inevitable.
Articles like this and this discuss the possibility that corruption is inevitable in every political system. In fact, even ordinary people (like this thread on Reddit) talk about it. But apparently this question has existed since the time of Aristotle and thus looks like one of those questions where you just don’t have an answer to.
But in the case of Tun Mahathir, he may have accepted that we will have corruption no matter how hard we try to get rid of it, but when he was asked about what he did to stop corruption during his time in charge, he had this to say.
“The most important thing is I was not corrupt myself” – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Some of you may beg to differ but hey, we’re just telling you what he said.
7. “If I didn’t think there was anyone good enough to lead, I would not have stepped down”
During the press conference, Tun Mahathir was asked if any Prime Minister other than himself was good enough for the job (because he criticised Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdullah Badawi and Dato’ Seri Najib Razak). Check out his reply.
While he said that he believed someone would take over, he also admitted that it was different for him after stepping down as Prime Minister.
Now when you step down and you are no more Prime Minister, I realise you don’t have as much authority as you used to… It’s very uncomfortable.” – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
But he has made one thing clear. He intends to speak out as long as he feels that something is wrong with the governance of this country. He also made it clear that certain things have caused him to turn his back on the current crop of leaders.
And that, we feel, is a dangerous bombshell. Because a former Prime Minister of ours is now publicly declaring that our current leader is not good enough.
But what of the next leader then? What does Tun Mahathir have to say about it?
“The next Malaysian leader should be a man who will not abuse power. We should have a way to stop someone who abuses power through vote of no confidence.” – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
And we have to say, we hope so too. We too hope and believe that one day, there will be somebody good enough to govern this nation.
Tun Mahathir dropped so many bombs in one session?
To be honest, we did not touch on every single topic that Tun Mahathir talked about.
Believe it or not, in less than 2 hours, he mentioned all of the above and more. He talked about issues like criticising the government, teaching maths and science in English, and even a judicial crisis that happened in 1988 (in which he allegedly was a part of).
Maybe a lot of what he said has even left more questions than answers (like another government case recently), but we hope that what we’ve written has given you an idea of what went down that day.
So why don’t you let us know what you think about all that we’ve just said, either in the poll or comments below.
Update: Some figures were stated as billion instead of million in an earlier version. We apologise for this.