Dr Mahathir labels Madani govt as “authoritarian” for limits placed on freedom of speech

The former Langkawi MP highlighted the irony of restrictions in a democratic institution like the Parliament, where open discourse should be the norm.

TASNIM LOKMAN ASHWIN KUMAR
01 Jul 2024 08:11am
Illustration by Sinar Daily
Illustration by Sinar Daily
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PUTRAJAYA – Malaysia’s longest serving Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has labelled the current administration as an authoritarian government, emphasising the limitations placed on freedom of speech.

“Well, this Kerajaan Madani (Madani Government), you have to accept that it is an authoritarian government. You are not allowed to speak about anything.

“You can't speak about the 3R (royalty, religion and race) you can't speak about Casino, you can't speak about many things. So, it's said to be multiracial and all that, but you can't talk about anything,” he told Sinar Daily during an exclusive interview on Politics, Corruption and Possible Revenge: Fireside Chat with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The former Langkawi MP highlighted the irony of restrictions in a democratic institution like the Parliament, where open discourse should be the norm.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during an exclusive interview on Politics, Corruption and Possible Revenge: Fireside Chat with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. (PHOTO BY ASRIL ASWANDI ABD SHUKOR)
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad during an exclusive interview on Politics, Corruption and Possible Revenge: Fireside Chat with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. (PHOTO BY ASRIL ASWANDI ABD SHUKOR)

“Even in parliament, the word parliament actually comes with a French word ‘parlour’, which mean to speak. You are there to speak, but you are told, you cannot speak about 3R.

“On the other hand, the government speaks about race and all that. The government says you must not speak about this and the government discuss on their own without any rebuttal or any debate,” he said.

Dr Mahathir argued that the suppression of debate and enforced acceptance of government directives erode the fundamental principles of democracy. He stressed the contradiction between the proclaimed freedom of speech and the actual restrictions imposed on it.

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“We are going to be forced to accept. You see, you can't talk. You must accept this. So, there is no debate. There is no freedom of speech,” he said.

Dr Mahathir did, however, admitted that sometimes freedom of speech could sometimes create controversies but asserted that it was essential for the health of any society.

He criticised the current state of affairs where people were told they have freedom but were simultaneously restricted in what they can say.