Press Statement by Charles Santiago in Klang on Friday, 14th November 2008:

Cranky Mahathir

Malaysia's former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad should try to fade into oblivion. The people might just forgive him if they don't have to see his face and hypocritical rhetoric in every local newspaper and website.

But if he is adamant about dissecting the country's current political dilemma, Mahathir must first admit he single-handedly ruined Malaysia's judicial independence, endorsed abuse of police and ministerial powers, domesticated the media, formulated racial policies and used preventive laws to keep his hold on power.

Mahathir must also take responsibility for introducing money politics in UMNO, again to keep the top job at whatever cost during his tenure as the country's leader. If we consider his suggestion of throwing corrupt UMNO leaders in jail and possibly under the Internal Security Act, then Mahathir should be the first one counting the bars of a prison cell.

The quota system for party nominations implemented in 1996 brought in money politics into UMNO, a trend which later changed into rampant corruption and widespread bribery. But it also staved off any challenge to Mahathir's position as UMNO President and the country's Prime Minister.

Mahathir's claims that he brought in the change as he thought it would be difficult to bribe all UMNO divisions is nonsensical. It also alludes to the fact that the former premier was aware of the possibility of money exchanging hands for nominations with the introduction of the new system.

But Mahathir would not have given two hoots about the consequences of his actions. His obsession with power has led to the self-destruction of UMNO.

Despite having stepped down, Mahathir continues his jaundiced analysis on the country's political crisis. He gave race-based politics a pat in the back for reducing debates on race and stabilising the nation. What a joke!

Someone must tell Mahathir that racial politics and ancient tactics of using race and religious issues to create a climate of fear would not work anymore in Malaysia. UMNO leaders, who excel in thinly-veiled threats that could exacerbate racial tension, have lost the trust of the people.

Malaysians are demanding greater democratic space. The Malays are acutely aware that affirmative-action policies have enriched the ruling elite. The people are rooting for a government that would provide equal opportunities irrespective of race and religion, wipe out corruption, distance itself from cronyism and abstain from using preventive laws to curb dissent.

Mahathir is obviously out of touch with the ground reality. Or he would have retired gracefully. In fact that was his promise to the nation when he threw in the towel and handed over the reins of power to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Maybe Mahathir's constant verbal diarrohea in local dailies is his way of ensuring his voice is still relevant in the country. But I vividly remember Mahathir's words when he officiated the opening of Putrajaya, the country's new administrative capital. Mahathir said that irrespective of who ruled the country, he would continue to watch from beyond his grave.

This clearly reflects Mahathir's desperation to leave behind a legacy. Unfortunately his legacy would speak of silenced voices of dissidents, tarnished judiciary, corrupt police force, greedy UMNO politicians and crippled media. In short a ruined nation.

* Charles Santiago, MP for Klang