National debate on the successes and
failures of Mahathir as the longest-serving Prime Minister of Malaysia on tv,
radio and the press - starting with why Malaysia needs 40 years until 2020
to reach developed nation status when South Korea could achieve this in 15
years starting with lower per capita income
by Lim Kit Siang
MCA President and Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik
yesterday praised sky-high the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir
Mohamad as having "done a wonderful job in forging a sophisticated,
extraordinary and outstanding country".
Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Universiti Tunku Abdul
Rahman (Utar) in Kampar by Mahathir yesterday, Ling quoted author Michael
Backman, who described Mahathir as a good example of a great leader, and
declared that Malaysia had benefited much from Mahathir.
As the longest-serving Prime Minister of Malaysia whose fourth premiership
spanned almost half the 45-year history of the nation since Independence,
Mahathir has a mixed record of successes, failures and unfinished business.
I had only yesterday at the 13th DAP National Conference suggested that
Mahathir should at least accomplish ten tasks in the nine-and-a-half months
left before he passed the baton of government to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi after the OIC Summit in October - tasks which are important to secure
a proper and solid foundation for an united, tolerant, progressive and
prosperous Malaysia to face the challenges of the 21st century.
These ten tasks include:
end the division of Malaysians
into bumiputras and non-bumiputras;
withdraw his "929 Declaration"
that Malaysia is an Islamic state and reaffirm the founding principles of
the 45-year Merdeka Constitution and "social contract";
Improve the quality and excellence
of tertiary education in Malaysia so that Malaysia's best university is
rated among Asia-Pacific's top 10 Best Universities, five best universities
among Asia-Pacific's top 50, adoption of meritocracy for all academic
appointments and appoint qualified non-Malays and women as university vice
chancellors and deans of faculties.
Restore English proficiency in the
country to the standards and attainments three decades ago, full regard for
Article 152 of the Federal Constitution and build new Chinese primary
schools to meet increased student demands and needs.
End corruption, cronyism and
nepotism to give fillip to economic growth.
An all-party/all religions/NGOs
campaign to eradicate the international perception that Malaysia is a
Restore the rule of law, the
independence of the judiciary and the integrity and credibility of important
national institutions such as the Election Commission, the Anti-Corruption
Agency, Suhakam, the Attorney-General's Office, Police, etc.
Introduce a new democratic
Respect human rights and restore
freedom of speech, assembly, association, a free press and the right to
information and development.
An intelligent and workable plan
to transform Malaysia into a K economy.
There should in fact be a
nation-wide debate on the successes and failures of Mahathir as the
longest-serving Prime Minister of Malaysia for 22 years on tv, radio and the
press, with all sectors of the Malaysian public participating.
It is better that this debate and review takes place when Mahathir is still
Prime Minister instead of waiting until he had stepped down from office, as
Mahathir and the country might be able to benefit from a current debate in
his final 9 ½ months as PM, while any debate after he had left office would
only be useful for history.
Mahathir said recently that many people want him to do in ten months what
would normally take three or four years. Undoubtedly, at this juncture of
the nation's history, there are many things which only Mahathir and nobody
else in the Barisan Nasional government can do, including rectifying
numerous grave errors of government policies and measures.
The national debate on the successes and failures of Mahathir as the
longest-serving Prime Minister of Malaysia can profitably start with the
topic as to why Malaysia needs 40 years until 2020 to reach developed nation
status when South Korea could achieve this in 15 years starting with lower
per capita income.
When Mahathir became Prime Minister of Malaysia in July 1981, Malaysia had a
higher per capita income of US$1,840 than South Korea which lagged behind
with US$1,700. Two decades later, South Korea's per capita income had
increased by leaps and bounds at the annual rate of 9.36 per cent, while
Malaysia lagged behind with a slower growth at 3.96% per annum.
As a result, South Korea's per capita income in 2001 has not only overtaken
that of Malaysia, but is 2.5 times higher. South Korean's per capita income
for 2001 is US$9,400 as compared to Malaysia's per capita income of
From 1981 when Mahathir became Prime Minister, South Korea took 15 years to
become a fully developed nation in 1996 when it joined the OECD although it
had a lower per capita income than Malaysia. The question is why Malaysia
has not reached fully developed nation status despite 22 years of Mahathir
as Prime Minister, although Malaysia started off with a higher per capita
income, and still needs another 17 years until 2020 to achieve this goal -
or a period of 40 years from 1981 as compared to 15 years for South Korea!
An extensive debate as to why under the 22-year premiership of Mahathir,
Malaysia lagged so far behind South Korea despite starting off with a higher
per capita income can only be fruitful in identifying the factors as to why
Malaysia had not developed at a faster rate, taking full account of the
important factors of equity, justice, democracy, human rights and good
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National