Tunku Abdul Rahman resigned as Prime Minister because of his dignity. So did Tun Hussein Onn and his father before that, Onn Jaafar. And in more recent times we had Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi doing the same.
As Pak Lah once said, Malaysia is a country with first-world infrastructure but third-world mentality. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when interviewed soon after his retirement said almost the same thing but in different words.
When asked what was his greatest regret in 22 years as Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir replied his greatest regret is he could not change the mentality of the Malays. The Malays are too feudalistic, said Dr Mahathir, and he sighed and said why can’t the Malays be more pragmatic like the Chinese.
Dr Mahathir himself has summed up the Malay psyche very well when he said the Malays are very feudal. This may be good or it may be bad depending on the circumstances but in issues such as dignity or maruah that is certainly a good thing.
While we may talk about freedom of speech, democracy and the right to criticise or tegur, we must also leave some room for one to maintain one’s dignity. When a person is stripped of one’s dignity then one would want to defend it to the death.
That, unfortunately, is not just the Malay psyche but also that of most Asians. The Chinese, in fact, call it face. Face is very important to the Chinese. And if you make them lose face then you do so at the risk of a very brutal repercussion.
When you over-attack someone in the west, they would say: give the person some space. In the East we would say: give the person some face. Is Dr Mahathir allowing Najib Tun Razak some face in the way he is attacking the Prime Minister?
Tunku Abdul Rahman, being of royal breeding, knew this very well. So did Tun Razak Hussein and Tun Hussein Onn. In their dealings with the Palace they sorted matters out behind the scenes and did not publicly criticise or attack the Rulers. That is the Malay way of doing things and the Rulers understood that as a Constitutional Monarchy the Prime Minister has this right.
Dr Mahathir changed that when he created a divide between the Palace and the Rakyat by launching a nationwide road show to attack the Rulers and bring them to public ridicule and contempt. And we know what happened to Pak Lah as well.
The issue here is not the Crooked Bridge or BR1M but 1MDB, Dr Mahathir admitted. The Prime Minister has already asked MACC and the PAC to investigate the affairs of 1MDB. That is being done and the result of these investigations are yet to be announced.
Can Dr Mahathir not wait until the results are known before he decides what should be done? The way he is currently acting, Dr Mahathir has already decided that there is something wrong so that would mean no other finding by MACC or the PAC would be acceptable other than a verdict of guilty.