Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Old friends

It's gratifying to see two of Asia's greatest leaders and former premiers -- Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Dr Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia -- rushing to the deathbed of former Indonesian president Suharto.

All three former statesmen, who are already in their 80s, were the longest-serving leaders of their countries respectively.

Dr Mahathir served 22 years before stepping down in 2003. Kuan Yew served 31 years and quit in 1990. Former Indonesian strongman Suharto ruled for 31 years as well before he was unceremoniously booted out of office following massive street demonstrations in the wake of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s.

It's heart warming to see that both Dr Mahathir and Kuan Yew regard Suharto as a close friend. Dr M reportedly shed tears but didn't say anything publicly in Jakarta, while Kuan Yew defended Suharto's legacy.

In an almost eulogy-like statement, Kuan Yew reportedly said: "In 1965, he acted decisively. He saved Indonesia from further going down that slippery road. From 1967, when he became president, right up to 1997, the economy grew and Indonesia was on the point of taking off."

He added: "And then when confidence was lost after the Thai baht crisis, people wanted to pull their money out, and the whole thing collapsed. It was not his fault. Yes, there was corruption. Yes, he gave favours to his family and his friends. But there was real growth, real progress."

It's unlikely that Suharto will survive as his vital organs have failed. He's not likely to be remembered fondly by the new generation of Indonesians who despise his regime of corruption, cronyism and nepotism despite the obvious national economic development during his rule.

But the grand old men of Malaysia and Singapore will continue to pray for Suharto.

One question remains about the two leaders of Singapore and Malaysia: Will Kuan Yew rush to visit Dr Mahathir or vice versa?


Anonymous said...

Me tries to guess an answer for your concluding question; one of them will try to attend the funeral of the other (if the surviving is strong enough).

Anonymous said...

MM:" Pak, the money u owe me no need return la.''

Pak's heart monitor went up.

Dr MM: "Pak, the money u lent me I finished liao.''

Pak went into maximum medication.