- Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran
On Friday Malaysiakini published Mahathir urges gov't to welcome Mugabe.
It told of Dr M recommending that Malaysia provides sanctuary to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, following reports that Mugabe may go into exile if his country’s election results turn out adversely for him.
Needless to say, there were outrageous protestations and delirious scorns in Malaysia at Dr M’s proposal.
But Dr M’s call is typically an example of his sense of loyalty, his greatest weakness and strength.
In my post nearly 3 years ago, Mahathir: Unforgetable & Unforgiveable, I had written: “Mahathir's unrelenting energy, confidence, vision and loyalty have all been both his strengths and weaknesses.”
Yes, as I said in that post, his loyalty to his staff-friends-supporter had in many cases proved to be a liability as he sheltered them from falling off the face of the earth. But while I admire ‘loyalty’ I didn’t let him off scot-free for his fallible virtue. I wrote “He chose the lame and therefore he must accept responsibility for their inability to perform.”
There have been several examples of how his loyalty were misplaced – Tajudin of MAS, his own Kedahan UMNO pollies, Najib, and a certain someone - ke ke ke!
But given this known emotional characteristic of Dr M, it shouldn’t be strange or bizarre that he, known to be a close political ally of Mugabe, continues to maintain that loyalty.
Mind you, Dr M didn’t support his legitimacy as president because he said that, as reported by Malaysiakini, he expected the Zimbabwean leader to accept the results of national polls in the African nation.
Dr M said: "If he has lost, he has to accept the decision of the people, that is the best thing he can do."
“If he wants to come here, the (Malaysian) government should welcome him."
In many ways, Dr M has that same streak of unshakeable (can we call it ’stubborn’?) loyalty that Allahyarham Tunku Abdul Rahman had.
My uncle told me of the invincible loyalty of Tunku towards the monarchy. An ardent 101% monarchist, Tunku did something during his PM-ship that would be totally unthinkable for any Malaysian PM today.
He supported India’s claim to Kashmir against that of Islamic Pakistan. My uncle said this was despite the fact that Kashmir population was then 77% Muslim. Tunku's support for India had probably been because the Maharaja of Kashmir, Hari Singh, had acceded his kingdom to the care of India on advice from the British Governor–General, following threatening activities from Pakistan. Tunku had always respected and honoured the words of the monarch.
Anyway, providing sanctuary for exiled leaders is not unusual. When the USA rejected domicile in the States for its former client, the exiled Shah of Iran (hardly surprising as the Shah was by then of no further use to the Americans), Egypt came to the rescue. We noted too that France provided a home for exiled Ayatollah Khomeini prior to the cleric’s triumphant return to his homeland after the overthrow of the Shah.
France has a proud tradition of proving compassionate sanctuary to many exiled national leaders, unlike the American attitude in this regard, where the USA's decision to allow any exiled leader to stay in the USA would be based principally on what that exiled leader could do for American interests.
Japan by rejecting the Peruvian extradition application for its former president Alberto Fujimoto on charges of criminality had also provided sanctuary. Current President of East Timor, Jose Ramos Horta, lived in exile in Portugal for years. Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia too lived for long spells in Beijing.
Then there were Pakistani Nawaz Sharif and the late Benazir Bhutto living in Britain when the military seized power. Sein Win, leader of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Myanmar lives in the USA. And we had Juan Peron in exile in Spain. Peron was of course a former Argentinian president, married to the far more popular and famous wife, Eva Peron.
Eva Peron was immortalized internationally by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber in the musical Evita – remember the song Don’t cry for me Argentina?
No doubt today the most famous of national leaders in exile is the Dalai Lama. Though officially he lives in exile in India, he perambulates globally and continuously to seek political support for Tibet to enjoy autonomy from China.
While I most certainly wouldn’t place Robert Mugabe on the same pedestal as the Dalai Lama, providing sanctuary to an exiled national leader, no matter how unsavoury he or she could have been (like Fujimoto, the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini and many Iraqis once living in the USA in exile), it does not reflect badly on the host country. It's an accepted tradition of international diplomacy.
In the case of Robert Mugabe, there is the added element of Dr M's personal loyalty to a political ally.