Donald Low questions anti-Mahathir sentiment in Singapore, argues that Mahathir’s success would be good for the country


Former Associate Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy(LKYSPP), Donald Low wrote a well-received and much shared post on Facebook questioning the sentiment that many pro-establishment Singaporeans have that’s antagonistic toward the newly-elected Mahathir government, to the point that they are eager to see its failure.

The current Advisor to Executive Education at LKYSPP, Mr. Low, surmised that this sentiment was due to the perception that in the past, when Dr. Mahathir was Prime Minister of Malaysia, he “wasn’t very friendly to Singapore” and that he questioned certain projects. The assumption is that behind this attitude was “a desire to do Singapore in. So the argument, as far as I can make out, is that we should want him and his government to fail so that they are less able to hurt us.”

Mr. Low then argueed why the opposite sentiment toward Dr. Mahathir would be beneficial towards Singapore. If Malaysia is governed well and becomes stable, it is better for Singapore. And if Mr. Najib had won, Singapore would have suffered.

It is still too early to tell if Dr. Mahathir can bring Malaysia into a post-racial future, but should the Malaysian government have been ruled by a BN and PAS alliance, the result “would have been a mono-ethnic government,” according to Mr. Low, that would have had ill effects, since divisive policies would have spread from Malaysia to Singapore.

With Dr. Mahathir at the helm, this is more improbable. Mr. Low points out that the new government is multi-ethic “with at least a post-racial rhetoric (if, not yet, reality)” that “is surely a plus for Singapore,” even if root issues that bring about real change are not yet addressed.

Concerning the perception that Mr. Najib was friendly towards Singapore while Dr. Mahathir wasn’t, Mr. Low called this “mostly rubbish and reflects a naive, even childish, ignorance about international relations.”  He argues the proverb that concerning international relations, “there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.”

What Singapore needs to do is to keep relations with Malaysia, its closest neighbor,  that are well-balanced and will be advantageous to both nations. This is more likely to happen if Malaysia succeeds under Dr. Mahathir’s rule. There is no benefit for Singapore if Malaysia’s new leadership fails. Neither is there benefit if Singaporeans remain nostalgic over Mr. Najib.

Mr. Low wrote, “There’s very little room for sentimentality or nostalgia in IR. Incidentally, on my recent road trip, I found the Najib (and Rosmah) brand to be incredibly toxic, and that this sentiment cut across ethnic lines.”

He then called out certain sites that are pro-establishment for featuring what he deemed unguarded and unwise comments about the Mahathir government. He cautioned against antagonizing Dr. Mahathir, comparing him to Singapore’s Lee Kwan Yew, in the sense of his deep-seated nationalism in putting his country above everything else. If Dr. Mahathir is provoked, he may turn out to be unyielding and quarrelsome, which would make Singapore’s relations with Malaysia difficult.

Mr. Low ended his post with speculation that the real reason why some in the pro-establishment faction do not want to see Dr. Mahathir and his government succeed is that the Mahathir government is carrying out reforms that they themselves are declaring to be impossible, such as the abolition of the GST, a more distinct separation of powers among the branches of government, and reviewing repressive laws such as the Sedition Act, the recently passed anti fake-news law, and others.

To put it plainly, if the Mahathir government succeeds, this would be against what the pro-establishment faction dearly believe in and cause them no small amount of discomfort.

Mr. Low then asked, “So to preserve the coherence and consistency of their worldview, they are willing to put Singapore-Malaysia relations at risk. So who’s being reckless and dangerous now?”


  1. Well, without the guts of Malaysian, to change the govt, it would be worst off as Najib and his Wife have stole million of dollars into their account. Singaporeans must do what the Malaysians done, to replace and change the govt, if not Singaporeans will suffer more if PAP is not taken out of parliament, and our grand children will blame us for not having the guts to thrown these white ghosts out.

  2. PAP & their cronies is definitely the most anti PH side in SG right now. They are desperate to see PH fail, they can’t afford to let Singaporeans see that alternative choice is not as bad as they thought after all if PH does a good job in reviving Malaysia.

  3. As a Singaporean living in Australia. I am in awe of what has transpired in Malaysia. The Msian pollies are taking a 10 percent paycut and removing the regressive GST. This is unheard of even in Australia where both major parties rob the people blind raising their pay and plans to increase GST.

  4. who is this failure donald low?
    he could not even get a job!
    and have to get milister to assist him.
    now he is crony.
    and what is he doing at lky school?
    after he criticised shame, he has to quickly u-turn and apologised.
    spineless wimp.
    now he dares to talk down to us.
    what self-interest? that old snake was simply anti-sg. he even sent his warships into our waters at pedra banca.
    and he incited that blind gus dur against our submarines, when they were in sg.
    that blind busted threatened to bomb our subs, right here in sg.

    we don’t need a useless good for nothing academic to lecture us.

  5. We are no anti Dr M. It’s just Dr M anti singapore that’s all. I agree a prosperous and stable is beneficial to Singapore. A unstable Malaysia will only keep using Singapore as a whipping boy..just like what Dr M used to and will keep doing it now.

  6. Similarly the PAP should not will or they should only will with the “skin by teeth” margins.

    Need to bring PAP votes down to 50% to 55% lower than GE 2011 of 60%, GE 2015 was 70% PAP votes have to swing a bare minimum of 15% to 20% votes…

  7. I don’t see Anti Mahathir sentiments. Rather the PAP die hards are worried. Dr M has formed a cabinet with lesser people, lesser salary and ready to make corrections. On contrary, someone with a smaller Island and population need two DPM and bigger cabinet. Dr M don’t have high flying scholars and Generals. Here it’s like an elite club. Dr M ready to give up GST and turn the country. Here want to increase. Let’s watch who is truly caring for their country and deliver. We are 2 years away from Swiss Standard. Whether we hit Swiss standard or Pakistan, we will know.