KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Razak should not be solely blamed for the state of the nation as he is riding on the coattails of a damaged system put in place by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, says former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee, Irene Xavier.
Irene, one of the 106 people nabbed in 1987’s Ops Lalang, said during his 22 years as the country’s premier, Mahathir destroyed the judiciary, education, and economy.
“Many of these things he fiddled with and weakened. So when Najib came along, he just used what Mahathir had already put in place,” Irene told reporters when met at the sidelines after a forum titled ‘Mahathirism vs Najibism’ last night.
Najib has been heavily criticised by Opposition leaders and members of the public, including Mahathir himself, for allegedly using the Sedition Act 1948 to clamp down on dissenters.
The move has seen a resurgence in Mahathir’s popularity with some citizens calling on him to make a comeback.
According to Irene, however, these people are so desperate for change that they have forgotten Mahathir’s wrongdoings, allowing him to step into the role of the “old, wise statesman.”
“Mahathir used different tools. He had other ways to control freedom of speech, expression, and assembly, among others. He had the ISA.
“Yes, he joins the people in criticising Najib, but I don’t buy his logic as we lived through an era where we saw the mess he created,” she added.
Institute Rakyat Executive Director, Yin Shao Loong, who also spoke at the forum, said Mahathir had learnt his authoritarian ways from a premier before him, Najib’s father, Abdul Razak.
“Razak had a lot of practice in developing authoritarianism, visible during the May 13 crisis and the coup against Tunku Abdul Rahman.
“Mahathir was a good student of Razak and this was why he pushed for Najib to take over from Abdullah Badawi, as a reward to his mentor.”