When a Canadian told me in 2002 that Mahathir was a kleptocrat

TTF: Back in the day when I had just completed my Masters degree, I joined First Robotics Industrial Science (FRIS), a Canadian themed institution based in Penang. The late Mr. Clare Sammons, the director of the institution, was said to have once assisted the Sultan of Brunei develop the curriculum for an Institution of Higher learning based in the Muslim populous nation.

Sammons and I became quite close and used to spend hours upon hours discussing Edu Mall, a concept I came up with early in 2002. One fine day, I walked into his room with a 200-odd page proposal (that I perfected some years later) I had been working on for months. He flipped through it, looked at me with amazement, and said, “I’ll have a go at it tonight if you don’t mind.” 

“Sure,” I replied.

The very next day, he came over to my desk and literally whispered, “Raggie, if you don’t have class, perhaps we could head over to Coffee Bean in Bukit Jambul for some coffee.” 

“Yeah, that’d be a good idea.” 

At Coffee Bean, this is what Sammons had to say:

“Raggie, I read your proposal, and let me tell you it’s one heck of a proposal. I’ve never really read anything quite like it. Now, do you know why it’s that good?”

Despite my sincerest efforts, Sammons’ just shook his head in disagreement each time I gave a response. 

“In your title, you said you were going to present an Edu Mall. And that’s exactly what you did. You had me all ears the minute you said it. And do you know what? Your proposal nailed it. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

“So What’s it worth,” I asked.

“In Malaysia? Not a dime. The minute you take this to the guy up there, God forbid it, he’ll sell you right down the river (oh, by the way, that’s how I came to be fond of this idiom).” 

“Mahathir?”

“The Godfather himself, yes. He’s a blxxdy kleptocrat.”

Honest to God, honest to all my loved ones, that was the very first time I heard the word. When I asked Sammons what it meant, he pointed to an article from The Economist, adding, “I just discovered it this morning. Apparently, it’s the latest fad in the States.”

So believe me, Lim Kit Siang was not the first to associate the word with a Malaysian Prime Minister. 

**The above are excerpts from my ‘diary’.

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Note: This news item from NST Online is worth a read:

KUALA LUMPUR: A former Malaysiakini editor last night branded the concept of ‘kleptocracy’ harped on by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his continuous tirade against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, as “a b*stard child of his own.”

Speaking at an open forum titled “Is Mahathir the Solution for a Better Malaysia?”, Fathi Asri Omar said the ‘damage brought to the country’ that the opposition pacts have fought against since the Reformasi movement began in 1998, had been caused by none other than Dr Mahathir during his 22-year tenure as prime minister.

“We have been fighting against damage to the judicial system, the oppression of media, racial politics, cronyism and the siphoning of the nation’s riches, now known as kleptocracy,” said Fathi during his presentation.

“When did all this begin? It was during Dr Mahathir’s time. These were all introduced by him and now he is with us and leading the charge against his own legacies, the kleptocracy which is a b*stard child of his own,” he said.

The four-hour long forum organised by NGO Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) saw panelists divided in their views over Dr Mahathir’s nomination as opposition pact Pakatan Harapan’s prime minister should it win the next general election.

Lawyer and activist Haris Ibrahim echoed Fathi’s stand in raising the damage brought to the nation, including that brought by Dr Mahathir’s ‘Project M’ to extend his power into Sabah, which he said had left its damage until today.

“If he is in Pakatan to help us, if he wields his influence and gives us a better chance of winning the election, by all means, use him,” said Haris.

“But to be prime minister again?

We (have been) standing against that all this while but in the end, we should feel that the nation is in a sorry state if that is our only choice for prime minister,” said Haris.

SAMM president and activist Badrul Hisham Shaharin said Pakatan Harapan’s shift in stance since Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) entered the opposition pact was evident.

“This bears the hallmarks of the politics of Mahathirism. Some say, who are we to question it when even Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has forgiven him,” said Badrul Hisham.

“Anwar must remember that the Reformasi movement began with people getting behind him because he was victimised for going against Mahathirism. He was victimised for trying to stop Dr Mahathir from siphoning the nation’s riches.

“It was people power and Anwar was the icon the people stood behind. It was not because of Anwar, it was because of what he fought for. To forgive is not that simple. This is not Hari Raya, this is about the damage brought to the nation and the people.”

However, activist Hishamuddin Rais and PPBM supreme council member Dr Rais Hussin stood behind Dr Mahathir, calling the nomination as an advantage in the sphere of electoral politics where an icon is needed.

Source: NST Online

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