I know I’ll be banging my head against a steel-reinforced wall when I say I agree with Dr Mahathir’s statement wakakaka, as reported in The Malaysian Insider:
Malaysia was a more democratic country than Singapore, and argued that the island republic’s “disciplined” image was at the expense of the freedom of its citizens.
Dr Mahathir had said the reason why Malaysians were not as disciplined as Singaporeans was because Malaysia did not resort to extreme measures in governing the country.
Now, don’t confuse the non-corruptibility of the Singapore government with greater democracy. There’s no denying that on a scale of 1 to 10 for non-corruptibility (with 10 being excellent), Singapore as one of the 3 top national authorities in the world to be 'cleanest', the Island State certainly merits a 10.
Alas, I am far too embarrassed to rate Malaysia at all. The corruption of the government and its agencies is just pathetic, and worse, with the lil’ Napoleons (officials) not ashamed of or even arrogant in their malfeasance.
But when it comes to democratic practices, Malaysia, warts and all, is by far superior. Mind you, it's just relative.
The reason for this seeming incongruity is that a long long time ago, LKY and his cabinet decided for a Singapore without any resources other than its people, and which aspires to survive by becoming a financial centre, not just of the region but one of the tops in the world, and a shipping, trading, commercial etc centre, it has to be absolutely squeaky clean, a bastion of law and order and super efficient in every which way to assure, motivate and encourage foreign investments and the use of the island as their regional base.
LKY being LKY, intellectually arrogant as a father-who-knows-best for his Sing children went about ruthlessly achieving that status. Any namby pamby opposition would be crushed if they stand in his way towards achieving this planned status. And just as an example of its assurance to western investors that law & order would be its hallmark, many years ago it even allowed western lawyers to practise in Singapore. Another step in its wish to be a serious global competitor was its non-nationalistic policy of (deliberately) having foreign (orang putih) pilots in SIA, because this would provide assurance to the much needed orang putih passengers.
Malaysia was at its economic peak when we had Dr Mahathir as the PM. Now, did he go about ensuring a Malaysia that was squeaky clean, a bastion of law and order and super efficient in every which way?
I think in some ways, the abundance of our non-human resources has lulled him and his government into neglect in the above fields. Why bother whether foreign investors want to come or not? They can f*-off if they didn’t like our style of government. Result? A typical example in stark contrast to the Sing's practice was our very own amazing Adorna shame, where the judiciary and the ruling it passed disgracefully supported fraud and wholesale cheating.
Of course it cannot be denied that the Malaysian government always have a far more difficult job to do than the Sing’s. There’s social engineering to consider, as in the various reincarnations of the NEP and its various permutations in the implementation. Also, there are far too many political warlords to appease.
Additionally, Dr Mahathir was personally driven by an obsessed fear, that the Malays won’t be masters in their own land. I have a lot of sympathy for his fear but I think his tactics to address this fear (his strategy) were flawed. Yes, his strategy was noble but his tactics weren't.
One of his tactics was to choose a bunch of Malay entrepreneurs to fast track achievement of his strategy, but those wonders let him down, humongously. He compounded the flaw by not getting rid of them. Instead he molly coddled them, and they responded by going into greater disasters. He allowed his fear to blind him into not seeing his chosen ones were far from qualified for the roles he assigned to, or provided for them. His generals let him down badly in the field.
Coming to democracy, because of a ‘relat lah’ attitude, unlike LKY’s uptight don’t-f*-around-with-father-knows-best mentality, I dare say that was what made Malaysia far more democratic in many ways than Singapore.
But as I said, don’t confuse Singapore’s super-duper efficiency and non-corruptibility with greater democracy.