Don’t feel bad for Mahathir

Sebastian Loh, Malaysia Impact

Can you afford personal bodyguards? Neither can I. I’m reasonably certain, however, that Mahathir and his family are well able to hire a small army of them. So, spare me the righteous, gratuitous outrage over the recent claim – made by Mahathir himself – that his government-provided Special Action Unit (UTK) bodyguards were withdrawn.

First, let’s get the details of this story straight. Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun unequivocally stated that UTK personnel still guarded Mahathir. He clarified that only ordinary police officers accompanying our former premier were reassigned – part of standard procedure. Unless Mahathir and his fanatical devotees can prove otherwise, I’m apt to believe the police chief.

And would it be so terrible if Mahathir lost his entire police protection detail? Last I checked, he and his family aren’t the exactly the impoverished sort. Forbes ranked one of his sons, Mokhzani Mahathir, as the 34th richest person in Malaysia with a net worth of USD$420 million – easily making him a billionaire within our shores. Mahathir himself often flies on a private jet. Bodyguards, well-trained and well-armed, would be smaller than small change.

Of course, the Mahathir family’s massive accumulation of wealth in a relatively short space of time had always raised many eyebrows and drew many critics. Back in 2012, here’s what self-styled guru of reformasi Anwar Ibrahim had to say about Mahathir and his sons:

It’s fully up to Mahathir to answer those allegations made by his former nemesis and now ally. And it’s up to Anwar to tell us if he still believes those things. But regardless, Mahathir doesn’t need your sympathy. If you want to feel bad for anyone, there are plenty more deserving individuals.

Feel bad for the millions of Malaysians who, on a daily basis, must pay outrageously high toll fares as they drive to and from work. Most of these absurdly lopsided toll concession agreements were signed during – you guessed it – Mahathir’s tenure as PM, making them extremely difficult to amend without some sort of government compensation. Don’t feel bad for crony highway operators who will laugh their way to the bank either way.