Mahathir’s policies, Malaysia’s loss 

No one should be fooled by Mahathir’s latest call for ministers to resign. He is not concerned about the quality of Umno-Baru ministers, he is only weeding out the candidates who stand in the way of Mukhriz.

Mariam Mokhtar, FMT

The haughty Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, will never express regret. Mahathir made a mess of Malaysia and now he acts the innocent. He played on the insecurities of the Malays to build his empire – political and financial – within a warped framework of “unity”.

Whatever has gone wrong with Malaysia, the solution is not more Mahathirism. Look where it got us and look at what this nation will become if Mahathir succeeds in pushing his son, Mukhriz into pole position.

The closest Mahathir came to admit that his policies had failed Malaysians, was on Sept 12, at the 30th anniversary luncheon of the Japanese Chambers of Trade and Industry Malaysia (Jactim). He said that the use of English, especially in science and mathematics, would help improve the standing of Malaysian public universities on the world stage.

When asked for his views about the Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013-2025, his curt reply indicated his displeasure at the omission of English in schools.

“Melayu mudah lupa”, for it was Mahathir in his role as the Minister of Education in the 70s, who effectively wiped English off the slate, in schools. Mahathir dismantled a century of British effort to provide education, and demolished the work of two centuries of dedicated mission school pioneers.

On Oct 7, Mahathir again expressed his concern at the lack of proficiency in English displayed by students, when he complained about the quality of graduates, who presented themselves for job interviews. In one case, he claimed that only seven out of the 333 potential job applicants in information technology, were suitable. The unsuccessful graduates did not know English and had asked for the interview to be conducted in Malay.

“Melayu mudah lupa” and it is disingenuous of Mahathir to feign ignorance, because he tinkered with the education system, as Minister for Education and later, as prime minister. Malaysian parents from the 70s onwards, have been on a roller-coaster ride with their children’s education, which flopped between English and Malay, several times.

The 70s saw a decline of English medium schools. A decade later, it was the turn of the higher institutions of learning to suffer. Non-Malay lecturers saw their services, and their publications, being sidelined. Simultaneously, the civil service, the armed forces and the judiciary, absorbed many Malays and promoted them, in preference to the other races.

Today, Malaysia reaps what Mahathir has sown. With the emphasis on Malay, Malays are reluctant to speak English with some claiming that it is unpatriotic to speak anything but Malay. The irony is that these Malays complain about the difficulty of getting jobs in the private sector, or with multinational companies.

A child in a MARA residential college told this writer that if he were to speak English, to practise the language, he would be teased and bullied for showing off and wanting to be “Mat Salleh”. When overseas, a majority of the Malay students, diplomatic staff and government officials speak halting English. Many have difficulty making themselves understood.

Mahathir kept Malays frightened and demoralised

In Mahathir’s ‘Look east’ campaign, he claimed to like the Japanese work culture but ignored the Chinese work ethic. Why? If he had promoted the use of Mandarin alongside Malay, all Malaysian school children would have greater exposure to business and educational opportunities in the east, especially as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is now a super power.

Mahathir did not care about the consequences of politicising education, despite the reservations of parents, pupils, teachers and schools. All he cared about was to be declared the “saviour of the Malays”. The man who claimed to have a vision for Malaysia, displayed a naïve, parochial view of the world.

Although more Malays enter higher education, their degrees are dumbed-down, because the pass marks are lowered for them. Despite the introduction of quotas, élite Malays abuse the system and deny their poorer countrymen the opportunities which were meant for them. Five decades ago, the Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka invited engineers and scientists to expand the Malay language, with suitable scientific terms.

Today, we see a bastardisation of the Malay language, not just in science and technology, with suffixes like “ogi” or “asi” being appended to many English words, in a lazy manner.

Mahathir’s politicisation of the education system with its lack of meritocracy, has crippled at least two generations of Malaysians. The brightest students whom we rejected, became Singapore’s gain.