Never mind regarding Dr Mahathir Mohamad as “a beacon of democracy” of this region or as an autocrat turned inspirational reformist. I like his straight talking more. He seldom minced his words.
I remember when he came to the Republic to give the Singapore Lecture in 1988. There was the Q and A. One Western journalist started talking about the Malaysian government’s allegedly less than fair treatment of the orang asli, the indigenous people in Peninsular Malaysia. The Malaysian PM was visibly irritated.
But he kept his calm and asked the journalist what he thought of the annihilation of the Red Indians in the United States and the massacre of aborigines in Tasmania, Australia. He said: “Don’t presume to lecture me on how we take care of our orang asli.” The journalist sat down and kept quiet.
Now, in his new karma as second-time PM at the age of 93, he has shown no sign of mellowing when it comes to speaking frankly. Just yesterday (Saturday September 1), he was at it again when he spoke at the The Future of the Bumiputra and the Nation Congress 2018 held in Kuala Lumpur.
He said Malaysians may not be able to compete with the Chinese if they were allowed into the country en masse: “If we bring three million of them from China, what will happen to us? They are hard-working and intelligent and have knowledge in business.” The Chinese will come as successful businessmen and their attitudes will be different from ethnic Chinese here and it will be hard for locals to compete.
“They are not labourers but those who have succeeded. Are we able to compete with them?”
With a none too subtle reference to the Forest Hill project, he declared: “They will buy our land and we will move away from the cities and live at the edge of the forest – if not in the forest itself. This is the picture I foresee.
“What we want is a foreign investment – for them to set up factories and that the workers are Malaysians and not foreigners.
“It is not for them to own big lands and to develop luxurious cities that we cannot afford to live in.”
He said that the Chinese would not be coming in as labourers as in the past: “In my time, they came in as labourers, and they sell taugeh (bean sprouts) and taukua (dried bean curd) and wooden planks. They were low-level workers, and many rich Malays had amahs (Chinese nannys).
“What has happened to their children? If we care to find out, they have achieved success and some have become billionaires.”
There we have it. We have a leader who is not afraid to make sure his people are not given the short shrift or become slaves in the pursuit of success or so-called development.
The Crazy Road to Singapore
The grand finale of Crazy Rich Asians was the wedding party held on top of the Marina Bay Sands. Fireworks lit up the Infinity Pool as Nicholas Young (Henry Golding) and Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) overcame the romance-threatening obstacle of stifling super wealth – and its custodian, the always brooding and disapproving Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) – to become a normal happy couple.
Hard to top this image of 21st century Singapore which will now be forever etched in the minds of audiences and tourists around the world.
The last time the MBS Triple Towers were featured in a Hollywood blockbuster was when the whole building was wiped out by alien forces in 2016’s Independence Day: Resurgence. Together, of course, with the Statue of Liberty, Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower, no less.
All this is a far cry from some early films set in Singapore. The whole production team of the comedy, Road to Singapore, circa 1940, which starred Bing Cosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour, never even set foot on this island. The film was produced entirely in Los Angeles.
Pretty Polly, starring Hayley Mills and Trevor Howard, showed early post-colonial Singapore (1967), with many shots in such places as Raffles Hotel and Tanglin Barracks.
And St Jack, based on the novel by Paul Theroux, and starring Ben Gazzara, was be remembered for its old Bugis Street scenes, complete with drag queens of the night.
Sense And Nonsense is a weekly series. Tan Bah Bah is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also managing editor of a local magazine publishing company