Addressing the Emirates International Forum in Dubai on “Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century: Role of Muslim Nations”, he cautioned Muslim countries against hastily embracing democracy, saying that the system could do more harm than what they are practising now.
The theme of his speech was that “good” dictators rather than Western-style democracy is what some countries in the developing world need to keep up with the challenges of globalisation.
He said: “We must put our own houses in order. It is good governance by good people that we need. And feudal kings, even dictators, have provided and can provide good governance.”
He said “some countries must be ruled by dictators” to avoid the pitfalls of multi-party democracy.
He said democracy today did not work even in the most experienced democracies of the West because money, not the will of the majority, determines who sits in the chief executive's chair.
The Star quoted him as saying:
"What started as a system where the majority rules, is now being used as a tool by some to promote the rights of the minority and even the rights of individuals.
"Today, we are seeing the minority and individuals ignoring the rights of the majority. Their democracy has become immoral and oppressive to the majority.
“Political parties mushroom and use bribery, corruption, threats and economic disruptions in order to fight each other. Development cannot take place as everything is politicised.
“The energy and the wealth of the nation are wasted in political in-fighting among numerous political parties, set up for nothing more than to further the ambition of various aspirants for the highest post in the country.”
It is clear that Mahathir is specifically refer to Malaysia and the case of Anwar Ibrahim.
What is most noteworthy is his comments at the dialogue after his speech. This is the Star’s report:
“Later, at a dialogue, Dr Mahathir said his stand on democracy should not be misinterpreted as advocating dictatorship but a view that countries should be allowed to choose the system that suit them best according to their individual situation.
“Replying to a barrage of questions from the floor arising from his keynote address, Dr Mahathir stated that he was also not totally against dictatorship.
“‘In fact, democracy should be ruled by dictator--semi-clean dictator because a clean dictator is not possible’ he said in jest.”
These are very dangerous thoughts coming from a Prime Minister who only three weeks ago had made the menacing speech in Parliament when introducing the Third Outline Perspective Plan (OPP3) (2001-2010) threatening to "break from so-called international norms" to bring "the full force of Malaysian laws" against opposition parties he accused of inciting racial hatred and colluding with foreigners to topple his Government, followed a week later by the Internal Security Act arrests against ten persons so far.
Malaysians are entitlted to ask whether Mahathir’s Dubai speech presaged that a new Dark Age marking the worst crackdown against democracy and human rights in the nation’s history are in the works.
Mahathir’s Dubai speech may not be unrelated to the announcement yesterday by his son, Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir to quit business and dispose of his stakes in Pantai Holdings and Tongkah Holdings and in all other locally listed companies because of allegations which tarnished his and his father's names.
Mokhzani said: "Lately there have been many wild allegations linking me with government projects or mega projects which are not true and I feel this is an irresponsible move to tarnish my name and that of my father's."
Mahathir probably thinks that if Malaysian democracy is ruled by a dictator as he advocated in Dubai, there would be no need for Mokhzani to withdraw from the corporate world.
Furthermore, if Malaysian democracy is ruled by a dictator, the spectacle of former Philippines President Joseph Estrada treated like a common criminal when charged with economic plunder of his country punishable by death would never be possible in Malaysia - not only against the Prime Minister but even against Cabinet Ministers and powerful political leaders in the government.
When Mahathir returns from Dubai, he should clarify whether he is preparing to dismantle whatever is left of a fettered and truncated democracy in Malaysia so as to create a democracy-ala-Mahathir ruled by a dictator.