Beware the ‘ultra’ game

By Oon Yeoh (The Edge)

Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was lucky that the bulk of his tenure was before the age of the Internet. Towards the tail end of his administration, blogs were just starting to emerge. They certainly were not as prevalent as they are today. And there was no Facebook, Twitter or podcasts.

So, he got away with saying one thing here and another thing there. At most, his inconsistencies would be reported by foreign news services, which were not picked up by local papers.

Today, every utterance by even low-ranking politicians gets picked up, if not by online news media, of which there are plenty, then by bloggers, of whom there are a constellation. And so, his latest blog posting, Kaki dalam Kasut, will surely be picked apart by many, including this writer. Here is my take on Dr M’s fixation with the “ultra” game.

Dr M began his career in the 1960s as an “ultra” fighting for Malay rights and viewing the Chinese with suspicion. A couple of decades later, as prime minister, he toned down considerably and at one time became very popular with the non-Malays.

But, from time to time, he reverts to form and exhibit traits of his ultra leanings. This became more regular and frequent in recent years.

His latest outburst, expressed through his blog, claims that the Chinese are actually the masters of Malaysia. This theme is reminiscent of his 2003 comments that the Jews rule the world by proxy.

So, the Jews rule the world and the Chinese control Malaysia. What else is new when it comes to Dr M and his ilk, which include editors of Umno-controlled newspapers, Utusan Malaysia and Berita Harian?

Together, they seem bent on destroying Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia initiative, which together with economic liberalisation, has managed to raise the premier’s approval ratings from the low-40s before he assumed his post to the mid-60s after just 100 days in office.

Dr M, in his latest rant, claims that 39 years after the New Economic Policy was introduced, the bumiputera share of the corporate pie remains at just 20% while the Chinese share stands at 50% even though they make up just 26% of the population.

This is a canard that has been discredited in a corporate-equity-distribution study led by Dr Lim Teck Ghee in 2003, which found that the official methodology for computation of corporate-equity distribution – first used in the 1970s and continued till today – is narrowly-based, unrealistic and has resulted in an underestimation of the true volume and value of bumiputera equity.

Lim’s study estimates that the bumiputera corporate share is considerably higher than the official figure of 18.9% in 2004 and in fact may be as high as 45% if you take into account government-linked companies.

Of course, if you ask the editors of Umno-controlled newspapers, they will claim that GLCs don’t count as Malay entities. Yet, these very same editors will assert that institutions like the judiciary, the police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission are Malay institutions.

I wonder what is it about corporations like Tabung Haji and PNB that make them not Malay entities and what is it about the judiciary or the MACC that make them so?

The answer of course is that it’s the ultra game. This is a game where you can change the rules any time you want for political expediency.

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