Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dinner Talk

Mom and dad went to a lovely dinner with some friends at Il Lido at Sentosa Golf Club on Sentosa Island recently. They said the food was fantastic! The company -- the CEO of a Singapore-listed company and wife, an experienced retail executive, two public relations consultants and their partners -- was great and the conversations tantalising. I bet dad was in his usual talkative mood after a few glasses of exquisite wine. I could imagine mom rolling her eyes whenever dad gave his conspiracy theory. hahaha.

Inevitably, the conversation drifted to the Dr M-Badawi clash. My dad was outflanked at dinner. They all seemed to blame Dr M for the fiasco. One of them even said quite blatantly that the fight was triggered because of foregone financial gains from the stalled bridge project to replace the causeway (pix). Although the allegation was not new, one of them even put a price tag of RM30 million as the financial motive.

Dad was in his element, I think. He argued that there is always an element of money politics in Malaysia but he didn't think they were the overriding interests in the current clash of the Malay leaders.

"You don't try to unseat the PM over RM30 million!" my dad thundered, adding that they are many creative ways to do things in Malaysia. A business associate could have easily written a cheque to help offset whatever advances that have been made, he argued.

Anyway, my daddy then painted the bigger picture. Dr M is a true Malay nationalist and he will continue to push his way through for what he perceives to be national interest, rightly or wrongly.

My dad said Dr M has demonstrated his nationalist streaks many times along the way, although many commentators simply dismissed them as self-interest or part of the deep-rooted patronage system.

The doctor in Dr M has always shown the tendency to tackle the root of the problems and he is even willing to demolish narrow Malay interests and symbols for a greater good along the way. In a way, he is always a pragmatist like Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore.


1. Dr M fought against the Sultans (a potent Malay symbol) in 1992 because they were blatantly abusing their powers. Dr M won.

2. Dr M sacked former chosen heir Anwar Ibrahim and rocked the United Malays National Organisation (Umno). Dr M won, but at a heavy price.

3. Dr M fought against the currency traders and called for major reforms of the international financial architecture. There was little personal gain in his move to implement capital controls and fight against the currency traders in 1998. Despite the initial apprehension, the currency peg provided greater certainty to a lot of Malaysian businessmen but it also weighed heavily on Umno/govt-linked companies that had borrowed heavily in US$ -- Renong, UEM, Malaysia Airlines and even the former Konsortium Perkapalan, which was controlled by Dr M's eldest son Mirzan. Dr M won.

A well-known former high-ranking Singapore civil servant recently told dad and his colleagues that Dr M was the only Asian who got it right in his assessment of the currency traders. Dad does agree with Dr M that there is a need to regulate the hedge funds, whose trades can be many times bigger than many real economies. The hedge fund community can also destroy real economies through their attacks on currencies, as seen during the height of the regional financial crisis in 1998.

4. Dad reckons Dr M will continue to fight against Badawi until the bridge is built to replace the causeway. Dad said it's a bit myopic to see the bridge issue as part of the patronage system.

He feels strongly that there is a need to allow water in the straits to flow freely cos the straits is almost like a giant septic tank that has not been flushed for eighty years. This is cos the land-based causeway retards the flow of water in the straits. Of cos, dad said Malaysia must do its part to help up clean up the two dirty rivers flowing into the straits.

5. Dad said Dr M is passionate about Johor issues cos he wants Johor Baru to to be fully developed to rival Singapore. Hence, He helped jumpstart big projects in the state such as Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Senai Airport, and the bridge project to help create a transportation hub (like Singapore). Again, there is national interest here although many people fail to see it beyond a mere bridge project with monetary spin-offs to Dr M's camp.

Despite the disagreements and banter, dad felt it was one of the best dinners he had ever attended, thanks to the PR consultant who organised it.


HL Lee said...

Such a contrarian view! I must definitely track wat u write to get a more complete pix of the whole Dr M-Badawi saga.

Keep it up!


Badawee said...

Saya tidak agree. Why? Er, please ask my son-in-law for more detailed explanation and rationale.

silver surfer said...

i believe dr m will prevail. and not because of who he is, but because of what he believes in. it is about honesty. he honestly believes that malaysia can be better. abdullah doesn;t believe anymore, which is why he gives everything to KJ. it's not about chinese vs malay, it's about the honest belief of what a nation should be capable of. if the government abdicates itself of that hope, it should not govern. dr m will not govern, that is not what he is after. he is merely passionate that the honest belief that we are capable of governing ourselves to better. for the betterment of our nation, his belief will prevail.

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