A cautionary tale about dictators who eventually fall, because evil never lasts.
I think everyone dreams of leaving a legacy that other people can look back on and be impressed with. Some people build careers while others build their families. A few are given the privilege of building nations. The famous heroes of history like Abraham Lincoln, you would already know of. What about the villains? Did you know Hitler and Gaddafi were once hailed as saviors by their countrymen?
When Hitler came to power, Germany was suffering from the defeat of WWI. He gave his people hope and rebuilt Germany. Then he took revenge on Germany’s enemies who defeated them in WW I. His actions started WWII. For a time, it did look as though his invincible army could take over the world. The Germans supported him when he set up concentration camps to murder their enemies, including his own political enemies. They said nothing when the Gestapo tortured and murdered people. In the end, near the defeat of Germany in 1945, Hitler committed suicide by shooting himself.
Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s 4th President, ruled for 29 years. He took over when Anwar Sadat was assassinated. During his presidency, he got Egypt readmitted back to the Arab League, helped liberate Kuwait from Iraq, exposed corruption by Sadat’s family members, and was given the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding by India. However, as President, he also detained people without trial, increased his personal wealth by corruption and did little for the average Egyptian. In 2011, thousands of protesters descended upon Tahrir Square, Cairo. They were fed up and demanded for the President to resign. Mubarak asked them to wait for the elections but the people knew that elections could be rigged. Within weeks, Mubarak stepped down as President and was put on trial. In 2012, Mubarak was sentenced to life imprisonment for ordering the killing of protesters at Tahir Square.
Muammar Gaddafi led a bloodless coup in 1969, deposed Libya’s first king and turned his country into a republic. He was very popular with the Libyans. He closed foreign military bases, supported the Palestinians in the war against Israel, made foreign oil companies pay more royalty to Libya and served as chairman of the African Union. He led Libya for 41 years. However, he used the billions his country earned from oil to fund terrorism and to train terrorists. He ruined his country economically while amassing billions for himself. In 2011, Libyans took to the streets in protest. Gaddafi ordered his military to squash them, killing and injuring thousands; this plunged his country into a civil war. While being beaten by his captors upon capture, he purportedly said, “God forbids this.” Shortly before he was shot dead, Gaddafi, who ordered the killing of his own countrymen, also purportedly told his captors, “Don’t shoot (me).”
The 4th Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Mahathir is hailed as the nation’s Father of Modernisation. In June 2012, he wrote in his blog, an article entitled ‘My Fears‘. In it he states he is afraid he will be put in jail if the Opposition, particularly Lim Kit Siang (his political nemesis), comes to power. He compared his fears to the fates that befell Gaddafi and Mubarak, and lamented about how the Opposition would abuse their power to imprison him. Strangely, Mahathir is himself guilty of misusing this very same power. In 1987, he ordered the arrest of 106 of his political enemies under the ISA and shut down 4 newspapers. This entire incident is infamously known as Ops Lalang. Throughout his 22 years as Prime Minister, the ISA was used countless times.
In fact, under Mahathir’s rule, our Human Rights record was terrible. People were arrested without evidence, died while in police custody and were brutally put down during protests, e.g. Cheras Toll clash. When his sacked ex-Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, appeared in court with a black-eye, he suggested it could be self-inflicted. In the end, our country’s Inspector General of Police (IGP) Rahim Noor confessed to punching Anwar while in police custody.
He was also guilty of corruption. He gave large government projects to cronies, e.g. those relating to highways and telecommunications. Barry Wain, in his book Malaysian Maverick, estimated that Mahathir may have wasted RM100 billion on grandiose projects and corruption, e.g. the Bakun Dam and PKFZ.
Could the above be reasons for his fears?
When people are in positions of power, they do not think that their reign will come to an end. Somehow, they think they will be untouchable till the end of their days. However, history has shown otherwise. Below are more examples.
Pol Pot, Cambodia’s enigmatic and tyrannical leader, was educated in Paris. He ushered in a new era for Cambodia and declared ‘Year Zero’ in 1975 but caused the death of 21% of Cambodians. He died in the jungles of Thailand-Cambodia.
Thaksin Shinawatra is the only Thai Prime Minister to complete a full term. Under his leadership, Thailand has enjoyed a wave of economic developments. Not so long ago, he was found guilty of corruption to the tune of billions of dollars that he gained during his term in office. He is now living in exile.
Suharto, the 2nd President of Indonesia, served for 31 years. During his ‘New Order’ programme, Indonesia saw economic growth and industrialisation. However, corruption and nepotism ran rampant, and human rights violations were high during his rule. Time Magazine estimated his wealth at US$15 billion. In the end, he died in the middle of a string of corruption trials. Transparency International listed him as the most corrupt leader of all time.
I hope you, too, will work towards leaving a small legacy for the next generation. It is a shame not to. But for goodness sakes, leave a positive one!
Your loving father,
(Featured image accompanying article on main page courtesy of _Art, source: http://bit.ly/LfM26R)