In a sarcastic blog entry, Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he helped tycoons in the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis to prevent the country from going bust.
But he also apologised for helping these tycoons, in retaliation to jibes against those accusing him of helping tycoons amass wealth under the Pakatan Harapan government.
Dr Mahathir did not say why he posted the blog defending his actions in the financial crisis and helping the rich in the process.
But in early October, a PKR founder Syed Husin accused Dr Mahathir of reverting to his old brand of authoritarianism and sounded a warning that Malaysia could be on the road towards “kleptocratic cronyism”.
The veteran politician also accused the prime minister of favouring his children as well as Daim Zainuddin and tycoon Syed Mokhtar Albukhary in business deals.
Defending his policies that some say solved the financial crisis, Dr Mahathir wrote, “If we had wanted to, we could have chased away all the tycoons. We would not have helped them. We would have let them go bankrupt. We only helped those who were not (categorised) as tycoons.”
“Yes, the way we (the government at the time) resolved the financial crisis (was by way of) helping the (business) tycoons in Malaysia.
“We could have chosen not to offer help and let them and their businesses suffer losses, fail and wound up.”
Later on, he wrote, sarcastically, “I apologise as my actions to overcome the 1997-1998 financial crisis benefitted the tycoons.”
“I admit I was involved in the creation of the measures to overcome the financial crisis in 1997-1998. Yes, certainly our method to resolve the crisis has helped tycoons in Malaysia.”
Dr Mahathir came under attack from various personalities in the Pakatan Harapan coalition, including Ronnie Liu, an assemblyman and DAP central executive committee member, who criticised the elderly statesman for failing to fulfil the 2018 General Election manifesto and for ‘dragging Pakatan onto the same path as the former Barisan Nasional regime.”
More MPs and political leaders in the government coalition attacked Dr Mahathir for allowing the Education Ministry to impose Islamic calligraphy in vernacular schools.
Others have criticised the PM for officiating at an only-Malay-congress that was organised without the PM-to-be Anwar Ibrahim.
Nevertheless, Syed Husin alleged there was evidence that enormous wealth was being accumulated by Dr Mahathir’s children and cronies, in an interview with Malaysiakini.
“Many companies and projects have been handed to his cronies, especially (Council of Eminent Persons chairman) Daim Zainuddin, (business tycoon) Syed Mokhtar Albukhary as well as his children,” he said, warning that power could be addictive, especially when it allowed a person to enrich himself, his family and friends.
“We have had kleptocracy. Are we now going to develop into kleptocratic cronyism? I hope not,” he said. -/TISG