Free Malaysia Today
The former premier accuses his Singaporean counterpart of stifling democracy in the island republic and turning it into a totalitarian state.
In the latest episode of the antiquated drama “battle of the octogenarians”, Dr Mahathir Mohamad has accused Lee Kuan Yew of being an iron-clad ruler.
Short of calling him a despot, a charge often levelled against the 85-year-old Mahathir himself, the former premier had slammed the 91-year-old minister mentor for stifling democracy in Singapore.
He said when Singapore left Malaysia, supporters of Lee’s People’s Action Party (PAP) formed DAP to continue its political struggle on this side of the causeway.
“DAP is alive and well today in Malaysia. In fact, it now rules Penang. But the rump Umno left in Singapore could not survive in the hostile atmosphere created by the PAP government. For that matter no other political party has been allowed to function properly in Singapore,” he said.
“Lee claims all these opposition people are duds and must not be allowed to rule Singapore or even to be in the opposition. This is a frank admission that he determines who should represent the people of Singapore, not the people themselves as in a democracy.
“If there is any more proof needed that Singapore is a totalitarian state, this admission by Lee confirms it,” he added.
Ironically, Mahathir’s comments come amidst a raging controversy surrounding his denial of having masterminded the 1987 Operasi Lalang.
The former premier, who blamed the police for the Internal Security Act crackdown, had been drawing flak from those who were arrested then, including DAP’s supremo Lim Kit Siang.
Lim and the others had accused Mahathir of using national security as a veil to jail dissidents under the law which provides for detention without trial.
Meanwhile, Mahathir also lambasted Lee for attempting to put a leash on Islamic practices in the island republic.
“Now Lee is urging Muslims not to hold to the teachings of Islam too strictly. Most Muslims are in breach in their practice of Islam. But it is not for others to tell the Muslims that they should renege on their practice of Islam to facilitate integration in Singapore.
“In Malaysia we try to live with our differences. Our integration is not perfect because we are sensitive to the sensitivities of our people. We do not ask people to forsake their religious practices so we can integrate,” he said in his blog.
Threat of invasion
Mahathir’s latest assault on the Singapore former premier was in reaction to a new book containing a collection of 16 interviews with the statesman, titled “Lee Kuan Yew – Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going”.
“What is the hard truth? It is, according to Lee, the vulnerability of Singapore,” said Mahathir, who repeatedly denied that he harboured any intention of invading the neighbouring state.
“Without saying so in so many words, Lee believes that the island’s neighbours would war against it if it has no military capacity to defend itself. The United Nations would not help Singapore in the event of such an attack,” he added.
In one of the interviews, Mahathir said, Lee blamed him for stopping sand supply from Malaysia.
“I was quoted as saying, ‘Even at their present size they are trouble, you let them grow some more there will be more trouble’. Rhetorically, he (Lee) then asked the journalist present, ‘We’ve got friendly neighbours? Grow up’,” he added.
While Mahathir’s memory was a little sketchy on this, he however said that his words should not be interpreted as a clarion call.
“I may have said that, though I cannot remember. But is that an indication that we intend to invade Singapore?
“Singapore had been taking large quantities of sand from the sea-bed east of Johor and also in the Straits of Malacca. As a result, the coast has been eroded in places. Taking one billion cubic metres more of sand in these seas would cause serious erosion. In addition, the fish-breeding ground will be destroyed and this will affect Malaysian fishermen,” he added.
As for the trouble caused by Singapore, Mahathir lamented that he had failed to resolve the problems during his 22-year reign.
“These are the Central Provident Fund, the railway land, the operation of the Malayan Railway in Singapore and the water price. Additionally, the reclamation in the Tebrau Strait was affecting the deep-water shipping lane for ships to and from Pasir Gudang Port.
“The only problem solved was the unilateral decision of Malaysia to give up the naval base in Woodlands after Singapore kept raising the lease payments. Malaysia did not ask for even a single cent as compensation for the facilities it has installed at the base,” he said.
The former premier said that Malaysia also had the right to disallow Singapore’s military planes flying over Malaysian air space.
Turning to his favourite subject, a new bridge to replace the congested causeway, Mahathir complained that Singapore was not forthcoming to this plan.
On the supply of water, he said: “All this while Malaysia had been supplying raw water at three sen per thousand gallons. Even to Malacca, Johor is paid 30 sen per thousand gallons.
“Negotiations to raise the price of water (supplied to Singapore) failed repeatedly. The first agreement will end this year. We will continue to supply raw water at three sen per thousand gallons until 2061 under the second agreement.
“Yes, we buy treated water (from Singapore) at a subsidised price of 50 sen per thousand gallons. We are willing to forego the supply and treat our water ourselves.”
Mahathir also touched on the legal wrangling over Pulau Batu Puteh, saying that it was Malaysia which suggested that both countries submit their claims to the international court.
“The court decided that the rock belongs to Singapore even though it is nearer Malaysia. But two other rocks further from Malaysia but nearer to Singapore were awarded to Malaysia.
“Malaysia’s willingness to go to the International Court is hardly in keeping with a country which harbours the intention to invade Singapore,” he said, adding that his successors were also not drawing up an invasion plan.
According to Mahathir, these were the hard truths and competition in trade and shipping did not mean war, or a threat of war.
However, the former premier warned that if Singapore treated Malaysia and Indonesia as its enemies, then it must expect them to prepare for their defence.
“Even if it may not lead to war there will be tension and there will be an arms race. And much money will be wasted. It would be far better if Mr Lee, the minister mentor of Singapore, stop thinking about being vulnerable and that its neighbours harbour the intention to invade it.
“Remember Malaysia gave up Singapore peacefully. We did not try to use force to keep Singapore or to suppress its people,” he added.