Tun Dr Mahathir, former prime minister of Malaysia, even in retirement, is not a man that many Malaysians would take to. They consider him a real bad arse. Most talk bad about him behind his back when he was in office but now, with his retirement, more openly.
The reality is that, though Mahathir has not been always right, he has also not been always wrong.
The problem for Malaysians with regards to Mahathir is that they find it hard to deal with him in a balanced manner – either they like him or they hate his guts.
So even when he has done something right, his detractors would go ape-shit. That’s to be expected given not only their political disdain, but their emotional dislike of him.
His presence at the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) annual conference has been resoundingly condemned by many Malaysians because they considered it highly inappropriate for a man who has been criticised for his abuse of human rights to be at a human rights forum. Many Malaysian non-government organisations (NGOs) boycotted the conference because of his presence.
Yet no one seems to have any concerns that the diplomatic representatives of the Coalition of the Willing were invited too. Can anyone, especially those who boycotted the conference, remember Iraq, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram, Fallujah, callous and unjustified attacks on areas populated by innocent civilians, use of cluster bombs and other internationally prohibited weapons, questionable military rules of engagement, unpunished murders and torture by some US military service people, indeed the whole nine yards of human rights abuses by the US principally, and to a lesser degree, the UK.
But no, the hatred of Mahathir supersedes or even clouds the inappropriateness of inviting the US representative to a human rights forum.
Anyway, Mahathir gave his usual Mahathir-speak, criticizing the double standards of the US and UK in defending human rights. That naturally led to a walkout by the representatives of the US and UK. Mahathir said of the walkout:
“They have the right to walk out. They have the right to criticise me like I have the right to criticise them." Indeed.
But if we can put aside the hatred for Mahathir for one instant, does anyone see anything wrong in his criticism of the US and UK's abuses of human rights in Iraq, and particularly for the Americans, at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan, and having the bloody nerve to preach to others about human rights?
Double standards? In the end it seems it's not just the US and UK who have been practicing double standards. We need to include Mahathir and those NGOs who boycotted the conference as well.