Is Marina Mahathir still barely out of her teens?

Josh Hong

Marina Mahathir is famous for calling a spade a spade and telling it straight. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to apply the same principle when it comes to her own blunders. – The Malaysian Insight file, March 28, 2022.

ABOUT two months ago, Marina Mahathir in her monthly The Star column attributed a “shoot on sight” threat against Vietnamese refugees in 1979 to the then home minister, the late Ghazali Shafie. 

The shocking remark was made at the height of the Vietnamese boat people crisis, which reverberated across the world. 

I was flabbergasted because I clearly remember it was Dr Mahathir Mohamad – Marina’s father, no less – who as deputy prime minister, had said it at an event in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Bangi, Selangor 

To set the record straight, Dr Mahathir had never served as home minister until 1986, when he doubled up as one alongside his already powerful role as prime minister, and only relinquished the home affairs portfolio in 1999 amid calls for his resignation during the Reformasi days that saw a rising spate of human rights violations. 

Ghazali died in 2010. While I have never been a fan of the hawkish Umno leader who had used the notorious Internal Security Act to clamp down on dissent during the turbulent 1970s, putting words into his mouth when he is already six feet under is totally uncalled for. 

Marina was already 22 at the time when her father made the inhumane, disgraceful and appalling statement, which prompted Kurt Waldheim, the then United Nations secretary-general, to seek clarifications from the Malaysian government. 

Malaysia made international headlines for a wrong reason, and the episode became an inglorious and ignominious chapter of Malaysian history.

So how can she now claim to be ignorant of the historical fact? 

After Kee Thuan Chye, a Malaysian playwright, had berated her, Marina made a half-hearted apology in which she failed glaringly to mention which “error” she had made, let alone correcting the fact that it was Dr Mahathir who had threatened to “shoot on sight”. 

Worse, no apology was offered to Ghazali’s family. And she sought to play down her “ignorance” by saying that “I was barely out of my teens and trying to make sense of the world”.   

But if she thinks she could continue to fool all of the people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time, she’d better think again.

Let me just quote a Facebooker’s comment: “Please let us know clearly what you got wrong and what you are apologising for. Those who have not read the article will not know how you tried to change history and put the blame for your father’s biases on another who is no longer here to defend himself.” 

She does sound like her father who had allegedly “apologised” for his “mistakes” without specific details, doesn’t she? 

And speaking of blaming the dead, well, didn’t her father also point his finger at a late Yang di-Pertuan Agung/Sultan for the judicial crisis in 1988? 

Like father, like daughter, no? Perhaps blood is truly thicker than water! 

The problem with Marina is, she has never been able to face up to her own double standards. 

Despite many having called her out on social media platforms, she simply doesn’t want to acknowledge her lack of sincerity but is trying to explain herself in many other ways in an attempt to obfuscate the truth. 

Nearly two months after her so-called “gaffe”, and when most of her critics had forgotten the incident, Marina herself brought it up again recently by discussing it in a New Straits Times interview, in which she appears to suggest that she had been used as a surrogate target by people who actually wanted to vent their anger at her father for whatever political reasons. 

She even went a step further by challenging her critics to take issue with her father, not her, while revealing the tacit agreement between her and her father that they would not criticise each other in public. 

Obviously, she just doesn’t get it, because nobody is asking her to criticise her father in public. 


But when she tried to portray her father as a victim of a political conspiracy during the infamous Sheraton Move rather than supposedly as one of the conspirators, she should be expected to be rebutted in the strongest term possible. 

Even if one accepts that she had genuinely made a mistake by attributing the heartless statement to Ghazali, the fact that she is timid enough to not offer a full and unambiguous correction deserves to be criticised and ridiculed. 

After all, she just cannot hope to be given bouquets and not brickbats if she wants to continue to comment on politics.

If she can’t stand the heat, just get out of the world of political commentary. Period.

And for those who have an issue with Dr Mahathir to take it up with him?

Many did and they either ended up in detention or jobless: Operasi Lalang, the sackings of the Supreme Court judges and Reformasi, just to name a few. 

Was she still barely out of her teens when these infamous events happened? 

Back to the “shoot on sight” controversy. The very Bernama journalist, Rajan Moses, who had reported squarely Dr Mahathir’s outrageous comments in June 1979 ended up being transferred to the translation desk “with no hot stories to cover or write” 

Moses eventually quit Bernama and joined Reuters, becoming the first Malaysian to work as a foreign White House correspondent in the 1980s and 1990s, a blessing in disguise indeed. 

Marina is famous for calling a spade a spade and telling it straight. Unfortunately, she doesn’t seem to apply the same principle when it comes to her own blunders. 

The more she attempts to cloud the crux of the issue, the greater the risk of her being perceived as mediocre, precisely what her father had, perhaps jokingly, considered her to be in her younger days. – March 28, 2022.

* Josh Hong is a keen watcher of domestic and international politics, who longs for the day when Malaysians master the art of self-mockery. He has spent the last 15 years trying to win his feline friends’ favour as he considers it an endeavour more worthwhile than trusting politicians, aspiring also to be a tea and coffee connoisseur.

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