Can you afford personal bodyguards? Neither can I. I’m reasonably certain, however, that Mahathir and his family are well able to hire a small army of them. So, spare me the righteous, gratuitous outrage over the recent claim – made by Mahathir himself – that his government-provided Special Action Unit (UTK) bodyguards were withdrawn.
First, let’s get the details of this story straight. Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun unequivocally stated that UTK personnel still guarded Mahathir. He clarified that only ordinary police officers accompanying our former premier were reassigned – part of standard procedure. Unless Mahathir and his fanatical devotees can prove otherwise, I’m apt to believe the police chief.
And would it be so terrible if Mahathir lost his entire police protection detail? Last I checked, he and his family aren’t the exactly the impoverished sort. Forbes ranked one of his sons, Mokhzani Mahathir, as the 34th richest person in Malaysia with a net worth of USD$420 million – easily making him a billionaire within our shores. Mahathir himself often flies on a private jet. Bodyguards, well-trained and well-armed, would be smaller than small change.
Of course, the Mahathir family’s massive accumulation of wealth in a relatively short space of time had always raised many eyebrows and drew many critics. Back in 2012, here’s what self-styled guru of reformasi Anwar Ibrahim had to say about Mahathir and his sons:
It’s fully up to Mahathir to answer those allegations made by his former nemesis and now ally. And it’s up to Anwar to tell us if he still believes those things. But regardless, Mahathir doesn’t need your sympathy. If you want to feel bad for anyone, there are plenty more deserving individuals.
Feel bad for the millions of Malaysians who, on a daily basis, must pay outrageously high toll fares as they drive to and from work. Most of these absurdly lopsided toll concession agreements were signed during – you guessed it – Mahathir’s tenure as PM, making them extremely difficult to amend without some sort of government compensation. Don’t feel bad for crony highway operators who will laugh their way to the bank either way.
Feel bad for the millions of Malaysians who – thanks to Mahathir’s automotive policies – were forced to choose between buying a substandard car (read: Proton), and buying a foreign one for two, three, or four times its actual price. Feel bad for public transport commuters who had to contend with poor services and limited reach because Mr. Vision 2020 was too obsessed with promoting Proton. Read more about that HERE.
Feel bad for the 100-plus Malaysians detained without trial under the ISA during the Mahathir-approved Ops Lalang in 1987. Many were snatched from their families during the dead of night, and some were allegedly tortured. Don’t feel bad for Mahathir, who, thirty years later, could only offer those wronged a laughably shameful non-apology – “I accept the blame even though the detention was not my decision,” he wrote on his blog, referring to the arrests. (In case you’re wondering, he has maintained that he merely followed the police’s advice at the time. You decide if that’s believable.)
Feel bad for the reformasi protesters beaten and kicked by Mahathir’s unforgiving police force in 1998 (watch this VIDEO). Where was their protection under the law? Maybe they should’ve brought their personal bodyguards? Today, Mahathir is free to join any demonstration (Bersih or not) without fear of molestation. It’s a shame that he didn’t extend that same courtesy to his detractors back then.
Here’s the thing: We are told, with melodramatic flourish, to give Mahathir the respect and dignity he deserves. But were the victims of his regime ever afforded the same? Were they spared the financial costs and outright brutality of his policies? Save your sympathy, outrage, and support for them. Mahathir and family will just have to make do with their massive wealth and influence. I know, I know – it’s intolerable to see the privileged suffer such indignities.