The Malaysia-Singapore ‘cold war’
FROM MALAYSIA TODAY
Surely Dr Mahathir can’t agree to Najib giving in to Singapore’s demands like what is currently happening. Are we going to see Dr Mahathir going berserk like back in 2006 with all these concessions Najib is granting Singapore?
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
An old acquaintance of mine who was once quite senior in the Fisheries Department related this story, which he said stunned everybody in the room. The occasion was a briefing session and the man who was the target of the briefing was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.
This government officer who was conducting the briefing tried to impress Dr Mahathir on what they were doing. He went into great detail talking about their plans and strategies and how things are going to improve once these plans and strategies are in place. And he concluded by assuring Dr Mahathir that it will work because this is exactly what Singapore is doing.
Dr Mahathir gave the briefing officer a long and hard stare and said, “Please never mention Singapore in front of me again. Don’t you know we are at war with Singapore?”
From that day on, word spread like wildfire that you must never, at all costs, mention Singapore in front of Dr Mahathir, unless it is in a negative light that is. To say that Malaysia too is doing such and such because Singapore is doing the same is to invite disaster and a dead-end career in the government.
We both had a good laugh and I never thought about this incident again until 2006, something like 30 years after I was first told the story about the briefing session. And 2006 was when I started my association with Dr Mahathir soon after the dialogue session that Malaysia Today organised at the Kelab Century Paradise in Taman Melawati in Kuala Lumpur.
“Singapore is just a little red dot,” Dr Mahathir would tell all and sundry, sometimes to a crowd of 1,000 or more.
Why is Dr Mahathir so upset with Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi? Because Pak Lah tunduk (kow tow) to Singapore.
Why is Dr Mahathir so upset that his Crooked Bridge has been aborted, and at a price that is more costly than if they went ahead and built it on top of that? Because Singapore does not want it — so, by aborting it, Malaysia is bowing to Singapore’s demands.
Why is Dr Mahathir so angry with Kalimullah (whom he calls Hindu God and Muslim Priest)? Because Kalimullah is a Singapore agent.
Why is Dr Mahathir so angry with Khairy Jamaluddin? Because Khairy works for Singapore and is being funded by that ‘little red dot’.
Anything and everything even remotely associated with Singapore is a no-no in Dr Mahathir’s books.
“Of course I can’t get along with Singapore,” laments Dr Mahathir. “I can’t go to Singapore and play golf with Singapore’s leaders and pat each other on the back like those in Pak Lah’s government.”
“Who cares if Singapore wants a new straight bridge to replace the Causeway or not. They can keep their half of the Causeway. We will demolish our half and build half a bridge. And if half a bridge is too short then we shall make it longer by building a crooked bridge.”
“Lee Kuan Yew told me that Goh Chok Tong is too sentimental. That’s why he does not want to see the Causeway demolished. So we will have to wait until Chok Tong retires and then, after he retires, we shall demolish the whole Causeway.”
“Malaysia fought hard to gain independence from Britain. We opposed the British and the British plan for a Malayan Union. However, after 50 years of Merdeka, we are still not independent. We still can’t decide what to do in our own country. Singapore tells us what we can do in our own country. So we are not really that independent after all.”
And it goes on and on — Singapore this and Singapore that. It is all about Singapore. And all of Dr Mahathir’s unhappiness is because Singapore is the cause of everything that is wrong with this country and all his plans are being torpedoed because of Singapore.
There are those in Umno who say that in 2006 I abandoned Anwar Ibrahim and then jumped into Dr Mahathir’s camp. Then I left Dr Mahathir and swung over to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s camp. And after that I left Tengku Razaleigh to return to Anwar. Why I ‘left’ Dr Mahathir is not clear because there was no quarrel or bad blood between Dr Mahathir and me. I sort of just moved on without any reason offered.
That is what the Umno chaps say and they say this openly enough in their Blogs.
True, I did ‘swing over’ to Dr Mahathir back in 2006. But come 2008, I was involved in the general elections and after that the Pematang Pauh by-election followed by the Kuala Terengganu by-election. In between that I was arrested for sedition and then for criminal defamation after which I was detained a couple of months under the Internal Security Act. So that sort of kept me busy for the last year or so, in between going to the police station numerous times and the many court appearances.
Nevertheless, while I may have been too busy to personally go meet Dr Mahathir in his house and office like I used to from 2006 to early 2008, I still kept in touch by phone and by passing messages through a mutual friend. I also met Matthias many times for lunch, tea or dinner to spend hours discussing matters of mutual interest. And most times the messages would be passed to and from Dr Mahathir through these people.
Dr Mahathir understood that our association was only because we both wanted the same thing — we both wanted to see Pak Lah ousted from office. That was the one thing that united us. However, after Pak Lah leaves, who should be the man to replace him?
Dr Mahathir knew that my choice of successor was Tengku Razaleigh. In fact, I had personally gone to meet Dr Mahathir in his house during Hari Raya of 2007 to inform him about this. Furthermore, we had a series of meetings with Tengku Razaleigh together with Mukhriz’s boys to discuss how Tengku Razaleigh could make a bid for the Umno Presidency.
I was not naïve in thinking that Anwar would be the next prime minister. This was before the 8 March 2008 general election and we were not sure yet at that time whether there was even going to be a Pakatan Rakyat (or maybe there would be three- or four-corner fights with PKR, PAS and DAP all contesting the same seat against Barisan Nasional). So the man who becomes prime minister has to be someone from Umno and that would have to be Tengku Razaleigh.
But we were not really sure whether Dr Mahathir would endorse Tengku Razaleigh in spite of Mukhriz’s boys appearing to be backing him. When we asked Dr Mahathir to his face whether he preferred Najib over Tengku Razaleigh, he did not give the impression he preferred Najib.
We never thought Dr Mahathir would want Najib because of the ‘Singapore connection’. He is angry with Pak Lah, Kalimullah and Khairy because they are said to be tools or agents of Singapore. But then would this not also be so for Najib?
Tun Daim Zainuddin has personally told Dr Mahathir that Singapore possesses all the evidence that Najib, Razak Baginda and Altantuya met at the Oriental Hotel in Marina Square one year before she died. This means, with the evidence that Singapore possesses, they would be able to blackmail Najib. Surely Dr Mahathir would not want someone who can be blackmailed into doing Singapore’s bidding become the next prime minister knowing how he feels about Singapore and those perceived as under Singapore’s control?
Najib has just made a trip to Singapore and while in Singapore he announced that Malaysia agrees to build a third bridge linking Malaysia and Singapore. Third bridge? If there is going to be a third bridge then there would certainly be a second bridge. And we are no longer talking about crooked bridges as what Dr Mahathir wants. We are talking about straight bridges as what Singapore wants. And Najib also announced that the New Economic Policy would most likely be abolished as what Singapore would like to see.
Hmmm…this is interesting. Does Dr Mahathir know what Najib is doing? Surely Dr Mahathir can’t agree to Najib giving in to Singapore’s demands like what is currently happening. Are we going to see Dr Mahathir going berserk like back in 2006 with all these concessions Najib is granting Singapore?
Well, Dr Mahathir knows I support him in his move to oust Pak Lah. But I just can’t support him on the move to replace Pak Lah with Najib. My choice of successor was Tengku Razaleigh and I never hid that fact from Dr Mahathir. Probably the whole of Umno knows this as well. Anwar Ibrahim and the PKR people certainly do.
Of course, if Pakatan Rakyat forms the government, and Anwar Ibrahim becomes prime minister instead, that is also okay with me. But back in 2006 no one imagined that Pakatan Rakyat would ever be formed, let alone win five states and deny Barisan Nasional its two-thirds majority in parliament.
So the choice was either Tengku Razaleigh or Najib and I never dreamt that Dr Mahathir would choose Najib considering he is so pantang about Singapore and would never accept as prime minister someone whom Singapore can squeeze by the balls — especially when this someone can be blackmailed about a very secret and sensitive meeting with a woman in the Oriental Hotel in Marina Square who is later found murdered.