The legend tell us that at one time giants walked on the earth. One day a mild tailor happened to kill seven flies on his sandwich with one swipe of his hand. He sewed the words 'seven with one blow' onto his belt, and the townspeople took this to mean that he had slain seven giants with one blow. He was therafter widely respected as a man of power and courage, and he humbly acknowledged the acclaim, carefully concealing the truth.
In Malaysia there is another great warrior, one Mahathir, who has brought down 100 birds with one arrow. In this case, the great feat was inadvertent, as the target was more modest, six honest opponents. He still gloats at the great shot, denouncing his enemies, and disclaiming any responsibility for the fallen birds. Yet the facts find him the father, though unwilling hero, and to him goes the credit for the fall of the great birds from the sky.
The jailed men are patriots, friends of Anwar Ibrahim, himself an innocent victim of Mahathir's arrows. They are all held incommunicado to forestall the wave of dissent raised by the greed and dishonesty of a political party Mahathir mangled, and twenty years later still leads.
In order to send the police into the night for them, and hold them without hearing or trial, a great principle of civilization was sacrificed. That principle is a matter of law, that anyone is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The guilt must be proven by sufficient evidence presented openly in a court of law. Those accused must be allowed to offer a defense. This great principle has been destroyed in Malaysia, poisoned with the toxic ISA law.
In order to use the law with a semblance of credibility, Mahathir concocted fable of Islam extremism, and used this flimsy fabrication to cover the true intent of his arrow. He shot this arrow of Islamic extremism into the air, aiming to justify the destruction of the hallowed principle, and to mask his true intent. He gloats to see that events seem to support his simple story. The fall of the birds is at the hands of another, or so he claims. He stands by his arrow.
Like an illumination flare fired high to brighten the night scene, the Islamic extremism arrow went up and up, trailing fumes of Memali, Al Mau'nah, and KMM, with bank robbery and political assassination thrown in, all to cloak the loss of the great principle. All took note of the bold action, wide-eyed with wonder that such an extravaganza should occur in a blatant attempt to preserve a political party's hold on power.
The massive 747's of Malaysia Airlines travel far and wide across the globe, landing in places of fame and also in places where none have landed before. There is hardly a suitable stretch of concrete in Africa, Asia and Europe that does not know the swooping wings of MAS's big birds. Why such a diversity of destination?
It is a story of two men, one in Singapore, just across the causeway to the south, and the great warrior Mahathir. Singapore Airlines (SA) also has 100 big birds, flying the long routes across the world. MAS and SA, situated just a few miles apart, compete for the same passenger market.
Singapore Airlines is owned and controlled by the Singapore government, which means Lee Kuan Yew is the head of it. Malaysia Airlines is owned and controlled by the Malaysian government, which means that Mahathir is the head of it. Singapore has the fabulous Changi Airport, hub of SE Asian air travel. Malaysia has the new and shiny KLIA airport, ambitious to also be a hub, but struggling to keep taxi service available for the long drive to town. The two men are going head to head.
Singapore Airlines is successful, each year reporting a profit. Malaysia Airlines is in the red, losing over RM1 million per day on the domestic routes alone. The two airlines compete for the same international traffic, and whenever one goes to a travel agency for a discount ticket, the best buy is always the Singapore offering. It seems that the Singapore Airlines ticket is always sufficiently attractive to overcome any nagging patriotism that might affect the choice. Malaysia has learned that it cannot win a price war, because if Malaysia offers RM100, Singapore offers RM90; if Malaysia also offers RM90, Singapore offers a special at RM85. One assumes this is a matter of policy at SAS.
In the present climate, the sky is filled with fear of flying, or fear of falling, if you will, or perhaps fear of meeting a tall building in flight. To these is now added the fear of someone on the ground firing at you with a guided missile or a radar aimed anti-aircraft battery. Many of these ground systems are automatic, and thus the accident can be attributed to a non-human cause. This climate of fear tends to make flying unprofitable, as there is little point in sending empty planes aloft day after day, as scheduled routes require.
The threat of hijacking and high altitude rocketry comes from terrorists, who refer to themselves as Islamic. They, being real, have become identified with the imaginary Islamic extremists of Mahathir's Malaysia. Singapore is not identified as the home of Islamic extremists, nor does it feel constrained to pronounce itself an 'Islamic State' as Mahathir in Malaysia has done. This is sure to be a competitive issue in Singapore's favor at the ticket counter.
Already twelve of the big birds have been brought down, and the tenure of the balance of the flock is questionable. New management assures anyone interested that the enterprise with 'return to the black' by 2004. Exactly what this means is impossible to say, as the interest on the RM10 billion debt has the creditors circling KLIA ready to settle on the carcass of the grounded planes.
The airline is admittedly bankrupt, and has been so for at least the past four years, according to the new managers. This conflicts with the remarks of the last finance minister, who paid out a handsome premium to his protege from the public purse. Neither the finance minister nor his protege have been seen since. The new finance minister is the great warrior Mahathir, himself, wearing the triple crown of prime minister, finance minister and Umno treasurer. Observers note he also wears the invisible crown of all the other ministries, including head of justicial affairs.
In Malaysia, where any credit is due, it is the great warrior who always shows up for the applause, though the audience is usually bussed in at great expense, and the TV cameras studiously avoid showing the yawns and the sleepers. The newspapers are not allowed to point out the poor marksmanship that has brought down the planes, stopped the taxi's, emptied the hotels and restaurants.
It is not enough to say the arrow brings down the planes. He has killed the sacred principle of presumed innocence before punishment. In its place he has put lies, cruelty, corruption and theft. Malaysia has been reduced to the least common denominator among nations, and to do this has required the special arts of the necromancer, the black knight, and the shuffler of marked cards. There have been others of similar sort before, and he gladly takes his place among them.
What Malaysia must accept, is the error of continuing in this sordid path. The sacred principle must be restored, the innocent victims must be freed and compensation paid. The repressive laws must be repealled. The minds of the people must be freed from the terror of false arrest. The police must be taken in firm hand, and put back to their rightful tasks.
Until this recognition is accepted by Malaysia's businessmen, civil servants, clergy, members of the media, the police and military forces, the birds will continue to fall, the hotels will remain empty, the restaurants will close, the unemployment rolls will swell. In a short time the economic engine of the country will slowly roll to a stop. The only economic base remaining will be the traditional industries, palm oil, rubber and rice. The timber and oil play less and less role, soon to disappear forever.
All this just to keep one lying old man in the top job. Mahathir has lost, Malaysia has lost, and Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore have won. Now Malaysia must forfeit the pot.
- Harun Rashid
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