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South-East Asia

A letter from former Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad

Crescent International

Dear Sir,

Thank you very much for the kind words you have for me regarding my stand on the behaviour of the “Western” people or the ethnic Europeans towards poor, weak countries, especially Muslim countries.

I know that like Western journalists, you too and practically all who are supportive of my stand accept implicitly the image that the Western Press and their Governments have painted of me. From your article it is clear that you do not question the allegation that I was an autocratic corrupt dictator given to throwing my political opponents into jails and torturing them.

You quoted the words of Gwyn Dyer, when answering the remarks by a BBC correspondent about my moral authority. He said, “Nobody comes to this with clean hands and if you wait till you have perfect people to do it, you are not going to get it done are you?” The reference was to my right to criticise and condemn the tortures perpetrated by the American and others against their prisoners-of-war, when I myself am guilty of arrest without trial and torture.

The tendency to rely on Western news services is one of the weaknesses which enables continued European colonisation of the non-European minds. No non-European journalists have taken the trouble to investigate fully these allegations. Surely it must be obvious that these allegations were made to discredit me for what I said about the Europeans and Jews. If I am given to torturing people, what right have I to condemn the European torturers?

But what is the evidence that I am an autocratic dictator who imprisons and torture people? I have been elected in elections that even the carping Western journalists have admitted were free and fair. This is clear because at every election the opposition had been able to win a considerable number of seats. In fact I lost two State Governments to the Opposition.

Compare this with Singapore where opposition candidates were regularly harassed until they could not stand for elections. If any opposition candidates won, they would be charged for something or other (stealing party funds for example), invariably found guilty and would not be allowed to take their seats in Parliament. In fact the ruling party in Singapore provides its own tame opposition, from among its own members.

The first Prime Minister of Singapore has remained permanently in the Government even when his son is the Prime Minister.

Yet the Prime Minister of Singapore is not described as an autocratic dictator. He detained his opponent in a detention camp for 25 years.

I resigned from office of my own free will, something which no dictator had done. And my resignation is total so much so that my successor is able to ban me from speaking to my own party members, or try to influence them. I am treated by the man I chose as my successor as a pariah, outcast.

I have been accused of arresting and detaining my opponents without trial. The record shows that upon becoming Prime Minister, I released 21 political detainees. There were some people detained during my tenure of office but far less than by my predecessor. And they were not for political reasons but for incitement to violence or drug distribution. The records are there if the Government allows full investigation.

My deputy was not thrown into detention by me but was jailed after a trial of nine months, defended by nine lawyers. The grounds for judgment and sentence are available as the judge abided strictly by the law. My duty ended with removing him from office.

If he got the black eye it is not because of torture but assault by the police chief, who was then charged in court, found guilty and sentenced to two months jail. Clearly I did not tolerate such things as torture. The police may have at times been guilty of using excessive force but not because I sanction it or tolerate torture.

As to corruption, what is there to show I am or was corrupt. After 29 years as Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Prime Minister, I cannot be a total pauper. The Government paid me a modest salary but all my appurtenances were paid for. I needed to spend very little on food for me and my family. I saved my salary and allowance.

Except for one son who got a scholarship before I became Minister, the education of all the others were paid by me. Five of them now earn their own living or are married. I don’t have to provide for them. They are reasonably able to care for themselves.

I own no property which I had not paid for. I own no palaces or big estates. I live a normal life of a pensioner.

All the gifts I received while in Government have been given to the Government. They are worth several millions. I never considered they were given to me personally. They are on display in Government owned galleries for all to see.

I have been offered land free by the Federal and State Governments and I have turned them down. I bought five acres of land from a Government agency. I grow fruit trees there.

My children received no favour from me while I was in office. In fact they were discriminated against. I did not allow them to contest for elections even when the party named them as candidates. Only now are they free but I doubt they will be chosen by the party I once headed.

The Western journalists and their Governments never did like me. And so they had to make false accusations and to label me a dictator, corrupt and fond of arresting my opponents and detaining them without trial. Till today every time they mention my name they append the words “autocratic”, “corrupt” and “detained his deputy”. The BBC even made out that I torture people like the people I accuse of torturing. By adding these sobriquet they manage to reduce my credibility, and cause even those who appreciated what I did to doubt my sincerity.

They do these because what I said about the Europeans/Westerners are irrefutable. We traded with the Chinese, Indians and Arabs for centuries but were never invaded by them. The Portuguese came to Malacca in 1509. By 1511 they had conquered and colonised Malacca. They were followed by the Dutch and then the British.

Asians trade but the Europeans came in armed merchantmen, demanded to set up fortified trading posts, insisted on treaties to give monopolies to them and then they simply used superior military strength to conquer and colonise to secure their supply. In the process they committed genocide in the Americas and Australia so that they could seize the land and set up the settlements which have now become their bastions of power.

They started and fought two World Wars killing more than 70 million people and destroying trillions of dollars of property. Forced to give up their colonies, they now claim the right to promote their system of Government by force of arms, to declare countries as evil and requiring forced regime change.

They kill millions of innocent people, including babies, sick and old people. And they are continuously inventing new weapons to kill more people.

And in war they have become brutish, detaining people without trial indefinitely, torturing and killing them.

All these things that I had said about them cannot be denied. They are the truth, the absolute truth. Yes, Asians can be brutal too but by comparison Asians would seem to be more humane.

I have European friends. I am sure they would feel hurt that I should say all these about them. But what I say is nothing compared with what they say about non-Europeans. So if they can say these things about us and frequently what they say is not even true, why should they object when we say the truth only about them.

Asians and Africans make no claim to be perfect, nor do they take the high ground to preach to export to others, their ideologies and systems. So I need not chastise them. But the Europeans take a high and mighty approach when they are really not morally qualified to do so.

It is because they cannot deny the truth of what I say about them that they resort to labelling me. But sadly non-Europeans prefer the easy way. They never really make their own investigations and reports. They merely parrot the reports of the ethnic Europeans and their media. And so like my European detractors, my Asian supporters also consider me less than clean.

My conscience is clear. When I launched the campaign to criminalise war, it was because long ago, during the Pacific War I pitied the fate of a young British soldier, a straggler who was captured by the Japanese soldiers and was bayonetted on the banks of the Kedah river. I thought a lot about him. It must have been terrifying for him to see the Japanese soldier raising his bayonetted gun to stab him. He was 8,000 miles away from home, alone without anyone to turn his pleading eyes to. He died from the stab wounds and his body was kicked into the river. That is war.

I thought, how cruel. And I knew then that war was not glorious the way the English history books made it out to be. War was about killing people. And today’s war is total; no one is spared, neither children nor adults, neither combatants nor non-combatants. They are killed by the hundreds of thousands from carpet bombing or when a nuclear device is exploded. Today millions live in terror of terror attacks by the irregulars as well as the state trained killers.

What kind of people are we? Are we civilised? Are we more civilised than the primitive people? The answer is we are still savages, solving our problems by killing, and rewarding the biggest killers with victory, the right to try losers and hang them.

That was why I took up this campaign to stop war as an option in the solution of disputes between nations and people.

I don’t mind being called anything so long as I can begin the struggle to criminalise war. But I object strongly to the undermining of my credibility because the warmongers want to continue killing people and destroying property in their bid for world hegemony.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad


While we are happy to publish Dr. Mahathir’s letter in full, Crescent stands by the article to which he is replying, and by our understanding of events in Malaysia during his rule. Contrary to Dr Mahathir’s suggestion, our coverage of Malaysian affairs in not based on Western news services, but on the work of respected local analysts. Editor. (Please visit our Archives under South East Asia for past reports on Malaysia)

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 2

Rabi' al-Awwal 13, 14282007-04-01

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