May 21, 2010

Wain: Tun Mahathir caused country’s woes


PETALING JAYA, May 21 — The author of a hot-selling political biography on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said many issues hampering Malaysia had come from the ex-prime minister’s tenure.

Former Asian Wall Street Journal editor, Barry Wain, whose book “ Malaysian Maverick: Mahathir Mohamad in Turbulent Times (Critical Studies of the Asia-Pacific)”, sold 4,000 copies in just two weeks added that he does not see any broad changes being brought about by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

“I argue that a lot of problems in Malaysia stem from Dr Mahathir’s rule,” said Wain in an interview yesterday, during a reception to celebrate the launch of the book. “Issues like corruption did stem from when he was in power. Lack of leadership, abuse of the NEP (New Economic Policy), problems that exist today.”

Wain, who was a Malaysia correspondent from 1977 to 1979 and has been in Asia for 38 years, said it was “quite obvious” that Malaysia has fallen behind other countries because of abuse of the controversial race-based NEP and that he was still waiting to see substantial reforms.

“I don’t see any broad changes at all,” said Wain of Najib, who is the country’s sixth prime minister and son of the second premier, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein.

Wain noted, however, that during the middle of Dr Mahathir’s tenure, Malaysia was one of the fastest-growing developing economies. And with 10 years of GDP growth above nine per cent, there was not a sense of concern at that time over where the country was heading under Dr Mahathir.

The reason why Malaysia was still lagging behind advanced Asian economies such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan even after all the rapid growth, according to Wain, was that the fast economic growth masked problems such as cronyism and the merging of politics with business.

“The great influx of cash hid that Malaysia was becoming uncompetitive,” he noted.

The book is a result of two-and-a-half years of research and interviews spread out over three years.

Wain also refuted reports that Dr Mahathir had seen a draft of the book before it went to print.

“That’s not the case,” said Wain. “I would never agree to an interview (with Dr Mahathir) if he imposed a condition to see the book before it goes to print.”

The book was launched in Asia in December last year but the Home Ministry only approved it for sale in Malaysia last month, which led to many Malaysians buying the book in Singapore or downloading pirated copies from the internet.

Due to the success of the book, another 5,000 copies are being printed for Malaysia and the book’s distributor, UBSD Distribution Sdn Bhd, expects sales to hit 10,000 by the end of the month, a high figure given the non-fiction nature of the book and its price.

“This is the first time that bookshops lined up at the warehouse to get the book,” said UBSD executive director Christopher Toh.

It is learnt that Malaysians had previously crossed the Causeway to Singapore to buy the book at bookshops in the island republic.



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