KUALA LUMPUR, May 10 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today dismissed Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) claims that the country was a totalitarian state, pointing out that the pact had been able win in elections and form state governments.
But Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister admitted that governance would have been easier if he was a dictator.
“In Malaysia, the opposition said that we are a totalitarian state because we have had the same party ruling the country since independence but we have seen that the opposition have the chance to win at all levels of election and they are also able to form governments.
“So this is proof that Malaysia is a democracy because the opposition can actually win,” he said at the Malaysian Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (MAICSA) 50th anniversary lecture here.
Dr Mahathir said that democracy is a “great system” because it allows the public to elect and reject leaders at the polls but he felt that modern democracy has made governing difficult because many groups are claiming for their rights.
“People keep adding other things to democracy and make things very difficult. Over time, it has been rights of the majority, minority rights, human rights, and women’s rights. Everyone claiming for their rights has made governing difficult,” he said.
Dr Mahathir noted that being a dictator would have solved the issue of governance.
“If I had been a dictator then governance could have been easy. I could have just declared a decree and faced no opposition. But having accepted the democratic, one has to handle governance carefully. A lot of people are lined up against you.
“There will be people quite anxious to take over and willing to do gymnastics. There was a time when I was nearly toppled but fortunately I won by 43 votes so Tengku Razaleigh didn’t have the chance to be PM,” he said.
He also said that Malaysia’s democracy should not be influenced by Western values.
“I brought up a very nice chap who was very religious and groomed to be my successor. He wanted to be everything quickly as possible so he plotted against me. He did something which was not acceptable by us but very acceptable in Europe and the US. I don’t know what but you can guess what it is.
“In certain democracies, it is acceptable that marriages can be between man and man. They ask why should marriage only be between man and woman? I don’t think we should entertain that type of democracy in our country,” he said.
Dr Mahathir also urged the public to be more critical of the current administration.
“In some countries, the appointments of the Cabinet members are vetted by the members of Parliament.
“Unfortunately in Malaysia, we do not question whoever is chosen by the prime minister to be members in the Cabinet. We are very docile people, even we don’t question when there is something wrong. We keep very quiet and will complain very softly to your friend and will not say it loud. This is because by being very critical, it will affect you,” he said.
Dr Mahathir also stressed the importance of Barisan Nasional regaining its two-thirds majority in Parliament.
“During my time, we emphasised that we need for the government to have a strong majority. We must get a two-thirds majority so can we govern the country without being hampered by the opposition too much.
“They can obstruct you but they will not have the power to frustrate you completely. If you want to do something like when we had to amend the constitution to free the people from the royal family or rather by a raving Sultan,” he said.
He added that two-thirds majority in Parliament was important for balance of power in Parliament.
“Having two-thirds majority is important because it balances the power of dissent on the part of the opposition and the power of the government to carry out its job as the governing coalition. As prime minister, I have always been able to get the two-thirds majority,” he said.
BN, led by former premier Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, lost its customary two-thirds parliamentary majority in Election 2008.