On March 11, 2011 I attended a lecture by Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, former and longest-serving Prime Minister of Malaysia, which took place in the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) of the MFA of Russia. His speech was dedicated to political and economic matters and democracy in the world in particular. The main points of his speech are mentioned below:
- Commenting on the current situation in North Africa, he pointed out that the further development of those countries depends on the new political regime which can't be foreseen. The riots in Egypt and Libya were not planned by any recognized political force, no initiators were identified. It may lead these countries to chaos if a new authoritarian rule is established.
- Democratic government is the best political device, but democracy is not the easiest way to govern a country. In a democratic country people can change the government by casting a vote. The ability to change the system by voting is the main criterion of democracy. He also mentioned that many people accuse Malaysia of not being democratic. Meanwhile, many countries can't progress because of too much democracy.
- Commenting on his long stay in power, he stressed the need for authoritarian rulers to step down when they are still popular. He said that after your long stay people get fed up no matter how popular you are and how successful your political course may be. Don't overstay your welcome, you should serve the people and step down on time passing the power on to your successors.
- Any policy requires time. If the power changes too often, no policy can be carried out. You need at least 8-10 years to see your plans implemented and leading to success. A four-year mandate is not sufficient because you don't have enough time to leave your legacy. Your successor will have his own ideas to implement, and frequent changes in political course will inevitably lead to instability.
After the lecture Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad answered questions from the audience, mostly asked by the first-year students of International Relations. Concerning the potential of the Chinese world vs. the Western (European, American) world, he said that many developing countries see China as a good example to follow. Beijing cares more about the results and the advantages than about political means. In comparison with Russia who chose to change its political and economic system simultaneously, China only changed the economic system and retained the political system with all its mechanisms and hierarchy. It has now become the second biggest economy in the world with 1.3 billion people, diligent, hard-working and obedient to their rulers, working together for the progress of the nation.
Talking about global economy and the world economic crisis, he emphasized that it's far from over and there's always a possibility of its recurring. He said that the current market management idea was wrong and there's a need to change the banking system.
Finally, discussing the state of relations between Russia and Malaysia, he admitted that there's no close relation between our two countries yet. Russia doesn't see Malaysia as a valuable partner. Education and trade remain two main areas of collaboration, but our governments should make more efforts to investigate our potentials. Malaysia is always looking for new markets. Now that Europe and USA have lost much of their attractiveness, Malaysia turned to explore the Asian market, as well as the rest of the Muslim world. Notably, he mentioned India as the second biggest Muslim country after Indonesia. There's some progress in bilateral relations between Russia and Malaysia as more Malaysian students come to Russia for studies and learn to speak Russian, and more Russians become interested in Malaysia and study Malay without having ever been to Malaysia, but there's still a lot to be done to explore other opportunities and establish a closer economic partnership between our countries.
Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad visited the Embassy of Malaysia on March 12, 2011 and returned to Malaysia the same day.