Malaysians must follow the spirit of the Federal Constitution with parliamentary democracy as the basis of the administration

- debate on the motion in the House by the fifth Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to thank the previous PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Dr Tan Seng Giaw

(Dewan Rakyat, Monday): Congratulations to Dato’ Seri Abdullah. It has been a long journey from Methodist Boys’ School, Jalan Air Itam, Penang, in 1958 and 1959 to the present position of the fifth PM. We celebrate with drinks containing ginger. Dato’ Seri Abdullah has opportunities and (a complex) legacy of Tun Dr Mahathir to make Malaysia better. Let us hope that he make full use of theses opportunities.

 As stated in the motion, we struggle to defend the suzerainty, independence and well-being of the country. We also uphold , practise and defend the Federal Constitution that is based on parliamentary democracy.

 All policies and practices must take the situation, the atmosphere and the environment of Malaysia into consideration. Dr Mahathir has repeatedly said that we do not want to ape other countries including United States.

 Last year, I told Dr Mahathir that when we assess a person especially a political leader, we must have two columns, one for meritorious services and the other for sins (Only God can decide these). If a person had done more good than bad, then he or she was good. Human beings were not perfect. Dr Mahathir remarked that it was like balancing on a weighing machine or in his terminology, a dacing (scale for weight). This Barisan Nasional dacing is often heavy on one side.

 If a politician has done a great deal of good services to the people, the public will remember and respect him or her for ever. Governing a country can be equated to steering a ship. The PM is the captain of the ship and the officers are members of the cabinet. There is only one captain. If the captain is clean, efficient and trustworthy, the officers follow suit. The sailors and the passengers are safe.

 The same applies to the PM. Some people surround and please him for their own ends. But, the PM must appoint his people based on their action and performance, not on their sweet words - meritocracy.  Dato’ Seri Abdullah has mentioned meritocracy in his speech just now. He must always listen to reasons and suggestions (no doubt some are not practicable). He must not be easily offended, becoming angry with sharp criticisms. He must not abuse his power. We wish he does not abuse the Internal Security Act (ISA).

 Six months ago, Dr Mahathir proposed a motion in the House against the American invasion of Iraq. He was right. I said this:

 Burung merbuk terbang melayang,
   Hinggap bertenggek di dahan mati;
Kalau menepuk air di dulang,
   Nanti memercik ke muka.

As a man sows, so he shall reap. The US occupies Iraq. But, every day, a few American soldiers (and others) are killed. Iraq boils. Let us hope that the US will withdraw as soon as possible, so that Iraqis can rule their country by themselves.

In Measure For Measure, William Shakespeare writes:

   Our doubts are traitors
And make us lose the good we oft might
By fearing to attempt.

This does not apply to Dr Mahathir. He has been on the square. He is outspoken – the trait that is his strength, his charisma and also his weakness. In nearly half a century, we see this trait from The Malay Dilemma to his comment on Jews in the recent OIC conference. Sometimes, his words annoy some people.

He spoke without fear or favour in international forums, fighting for democracy, justice and freedom of the media on behalf of the oppressed. (This is good). We did hope that he review the state of democracy, justice and freedom of the media in his own country.

I do not agree with Dr Mahathir on some issues such as his declaration of Malaysia as an Islamic State on 29.9.2001. There are differences in the interpretation of the Federal Constitution (that does not allow for an Islamic State).

Corruption is a disease that can become an epidemic like SARS. The culture of money politics persists. This is a big challenge for Dato’ Seri Abdullah.

Various projects are connected with Dr Mahathir such as the 2020 vision, KLIA, Putrajaya, Petronas towers, LRT and Monorail. We must make sure that these projects are value for money. He wanted to build Putrajaya in Janda Baik (bukan Janda Merana, the good widow, not the suffering widow). Instead, this national administrative centre is in Sepang because of certain factors. In his memoirs, Dr Mahathir may elucidate these factors.

With energy and stamina, he pronounced bangsa Malaysia (Malaysian race, that is nearly the same as Malaysian Malaysia) and Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC). MSC should be extended to Penang and the whole nation. He tried to change the mindset of Malaysians especially Malays. He amended the Constitution in the 1993/1994 crisis, ensuring that nobody was above the law.

Last year, Dr Mahathir asked me to have coffee with him. But, it was not paid by him as many people milled around the PM. He owes me a cup of coffee.

He does not forget his friends.  Neither does he make life easy for his foes.


* Dr Tan Seng Giaw, DAP National Vice Chairman & MP for Kepong