Che Det: Mahatir’s Man in the Mirror

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Eons ago, Mahathir the kid used to sell pisang goreng. His frying skills never left him. With plenty of fire in his belly, he ventured further to fry Tunku’s premiership, fired three deputies and a Chief Justice, and more significantly, fried the judiciary till it turned black. Tun Mahathir was and had always been strongly opinionated. He does not flinch, ever, once he makes up his mind over anything at all. The first public manifestation of his character came about with the article Malay Women Make Their Own Freedom, published on July 20, 1947 in New Straits Times Singapore, under the pseudonym Che Det.

Tun’s meteoric rise in politics meant that Che Det and his column “Harta Intelek” had to take a back seat. It turned out to be a long hiatus. On the May 1st, 2008, Che Det, now a pensioner, returned with the article “The Appointment of Judges.” It is unknown whether it is the irony effect or otherwise, but is now officially a crowd puller, with over millions of hits. In the aftermath of the political tsunami, Tun is now riding on the wave of blogosphere, gunning UMNO, the government, and everything else in his way.

Post March 8, political blogs had been the niche. Political awareness in apathetic Malaysia was at its highest. Tun, being an old guard in the political game had much to offer in his blog. A staunch critic of the government, was used as the platform to launch scathing attacks. It was indirectly a new form of checks and balance against the government. When Tun criticises, Pak Lah awakens from his slumber. When Tun threatens to expose corrupt practices in UMNO, its members run around like headless chickens. To his credit, barring judgment on his political baggage, Tun had highlighted various issues of national interest. The government is always on its toes, which is a good thing. Some might even argue that Tun is to be credited for having a hand in March 8, much to the chagrin of UMNO members. Such, was the influence of this man.

However, the biggest impact of Tun Mahathir’s blog has got nothing to do with its substance. Substance wise, one might agree or disagree with his views. It is the raison d’etre behind the existence of the blog that certainly exemplify the biggest impact by the blog. One would remember, that while Tun continued with his attacks on Pak Lah, government machinery was allegedly used against him to “shut him up.” He also lost in his bid to be Kubang Pasu’s delegate to the UMNO General Assembly. Tun would rant about being deliberately misquoted in government owned newspapers and subsequently, he quitted UMNO in protest.

For the first time, Tun knew what it felt to be denied of his rights under Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution. His freedom of speech and expression was curtailed. His press statements were modified, from criticisms to neutral statements. If a man with such stature and power was hapless against the government, what chance does the layman on the street has? It was there and then, that the idea of blogging came to Tun Mahathir, and thus the revival of Che Det. was Tun’s outlet. He knew that he was still influential. What he needed was a medium to get his message of dissent across. With the internet, not only did he prevented the government’s efforts to zip his mouth, he ensured wider publication and audiences across the globe. There would be no more misinterpretations in newspapers and his words could no longer be twisted in favour of the government. Furthermore, the government will be more alert now that the world is reading his articles, hence the potential backlash of international pressure against the government.

All that Tun did epitomises what Malaysians had long suspected and believed. We could no longer trust our newspapers, especially those owned by political parties. We could no longer believe every word the government is telling us. While the opposition parties had been banging the doors telling the rakyat about all this, Tun Mahathir, quite the government man, was able to create a significant paradigm shift, especially amongst “government believers.” Dissent is no longer purely a left wing thing. It now goes across the board. The rakyat is not so accommodating anymore. They demand a government that ensures justice, fairness, transparency, accountability and free of corruption. While the “skeptics” had been there all this awhile, now, they are joined by this new pool of “converts.” This is by far, the biggest positive impact that Tun had with his blog, even though it is unlikely that he intended to deliberately engineer such a move.

The fact that even Tun Mahathir had to resort to blogs in his desperation also confirms that our government is undermining our fundamental liberties. Legislations such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, Official Secrets Act 1972, Internal Security Act 1960 and Universities and University Colleges Act 1971 must be either amended or repealed altogether. License to publish newspaper is renewed yearly, subject to the arbitrary discretion and guidelines set by the government. The other laws meanwhile, are used to silent dissent. In the case of the Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, it is used to kill off the idealism of youth. It is no wonder that alternative source of news such as online portals, Malaysiakini and political blogs such as are on the rise.

The setting up of shows Tun Mahathir’s failure, in his tenure to guarantee freedom of speech and expression. Had that not been the case, he would not be a victim of his own folly, to the extent that he sought political refuge in his blogsite.

The author thinks that Tun is somewhat larger than life. Perhaps, it is because the separation of powers didn’t really work out for Tun. If Che Det was the Prime Minister, perhaps, things could have been different.

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Posts by Kwan Will Sen

Posted on 21 January 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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2 Responses to Che Det: Mahatir’s Man in the Mirror

  1. Yes i totaly agree with you actualy i can t see it any other way looking forward to see what others have to say about it regards.

  2. Pingback: Surat Terbuka kepada Dr.M: Kaki dalam kasut (atau dalam mulut?) | LoyarBurok