“NO serious economist could defend Malaysia’s current course of using public money to prop up failed businesses connected to the political elite.”
If you think this quote was taken from a recent WSJ article about 1MDB, you are wrong.
In fact, it was published by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on 22 December 1998 under the title ‘Malaysia Props Up Crony Capitalists’. The writer was discussing how then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was “bailing out favoured companies and politically well-connected individuals”.
“Renong’s problems can be traced back to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s disastrous privatization policy, a policy which has enriched a well-connected few at the expense of the government and the public,” the article goes on to give a damning indictment of Mahathir’s crony culture and its legacy for this country.
A simple search online will reveal WSJ articles stretching back to the 1980s which are filled with descriptions of Mahathir behaving like a dictator and using billions in state funds as his personal bank account.
In fact, Mahathir was so upset with WSJ’s articles about him that he announced it to the world.
In a report published by Executive Intelligence Review in 1986, Mahathir was quoted stating that the Wall Street Journal had purposely targeted Malaysia and attacked its economy by publishing articles ‘in order to undermine our economy’.
It further cites Mahathir warning that local journalists had been “brainwashed” by foreign press such as WSJ and alleging that WSJ deliberately published articles heavily critical of him when important international events that affect investments in Malaysia are held.
However, the negative WSJ reporting continued despite Mahathir’s public accusation. Another WSJ article describes how Mahathir “ignores the billions of dollars that have been lost by Malaysia’s state enterprises and banks, through political loans, mismanagement and lax supervision–and, yes, even speculation,” the article points out that Mahathir never admits his mistakes.
“He chooses not to question his peculiar brand of privatization, which awards contracts to favored individuals without competitive bidding and often results in higher costs and poorer services to consumers,” the WSJ article ‘Why Doesn’t Mahathir Bow Out?’ published on 12 June 1998 states.
This was followed in September of the same year by another critical piece depicting a leader who has brought nothing but shame to his country.
Dr. Mahathir is being attacked on his home turf in Southeast Asia. He is pilloried elsewhere in the region. And he is simply dismissed in Europe and North America as an old man desperately clinging to power, after 17 years at the helm,” the WSJ article ‘Mahathir vs. World Opinion’ amassed regional analysts opinions that Mahathir’s actions in sacking his deputy had ruined his reputation in the eyes of the international community.
Mahathir Ally Is Linked To Ringgit Currency Trades
Mahathir Moves to Guarantee Agenda; Is Set to Name Aides to Central Bank
Mahathir Defends Arrest of Anwar, Charges Ex-Deputy for Inciting Riots
Protests Against Mahathir Continue In Malaysia, Despite Police Warnings
How Malaysia’s Leaders Devoured Each Other and Much They Built
The WSJ condemnation did not stop at Mahathir’s sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim or his attacks on US financier George Soros but also detailed how Mahathir awarded mammoth government projects without competitive bidding and openly practiced nepotism.
In one WSJ article, it was reported that “tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan Chee Yioun and a peripatetic idea man named David Chew Keat Soon have sold Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Malaysian government on a 10-billion-ringgit (US$4.01 billion) proposal to privatize the main river flowing through Kuala Lumpur and build office towers, condominiums and shopping malls along it and atop it”.
Malaysia’s Perwaja Steel Continues To Bleed Red Ink, Mired in Problems
MISC to Pay $220 Million Price For Assets From Mahathir’s Son
Renong’s Asset, Its History, Reveals It’s Also a Liability
Duo Proposes Controversial Plan To Privatize Malaysian River
Many of those articles criticising Mahathir were penned by longtime former Asian Wall Street Journal editor Barry Wain who had compiled his critical observations of Mahathir to publish the book ‘Malaysian Maverick’.
The book created quite a stir when it reached Malaysian shores in 2009 with local authorities seizing it temporarily for vetting.
One quote made by the author of Malaysian Maverick in his concluding remarks was highlighted in one of the many reviews of the book and it speaks volumes about those Mahathir years.
‘Judged by his own high-minded rhetoric’, Wain judges, ‘Mahathir failed Malaysia.’
Mahathir even dedicated a blogpost to the unflattering biography which he referred to as “Barry Wain’s vilification of my stint as the Prime Minister of Malaysia” and offering up an excuse why he did not want to sue the writer.
Caretaker Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak had queried Mahathir’s decision not to sue Barry Wain in a blogpostback in 2016 after the former prime minister offered his support to the opposition.
“Dr Mahathir never sued Wain so the allegations remain. And because Dr Mahathir did not sue Wain does this mean the allegations are true? But then if Najib refuses to sue the WSJ, Dr Mahathir says that can only mean the allegations are true,” Sallleh Said’s comments brings up back to the present day.
Today, Mahathir frequently refers to WSJ articles condemning Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s handling of 1MDB and could not be on better terms with the international financial daily promoting his views about Malaysia heading for bankruptcy and ruin due to Najib’s leadership.
Perhaps everyone who reads WSJ recent articles today condemning Najib and 1MDB should also take a moment to reflect on what the newspaper wrote about Mahathir before and make their own conclusions.