Perhaps no rift in Malaysian politics has been greater than the one between former PM Mahathir Mohamad and his one-time deputy, Anwar Ibrahim. Yet they have found it in themselves to shake hands and be pleasant to each other, and that moment has been analysed from every conceivable angle in the past week or so.
Perhaps the best conclusion we can arrive at is that it was less of a reconciliation and more of an acknowledgement that they face a formidable common enemy in Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mahathir’s fell stroke at Anwar all those decades ago did not merely destroy his career. It also plunged his family into a lifetime of hurt and suffering as his name was dragged through the mud by Mahathir himself on international TV and everywhere else. For that hurt, Anwar’s daughter Nurul Nuha is right to ask for an apology given that her father’s original sentence – the one resulting from Mahathir’s accusations – was overturned.
However, with Pakatan Harapan desperately needing to move forward to regain public confidence, will it forever be about old wounds and apologies? Must Mahathir be forced to kneel before all he has wronged and to recant in public for Pakatan to finally start working again? Every day the subject of Mahathir’s sins dominates the opposition conversation is another day that the people lose interest in voting for an alternative to Barisan Nasional.
Interest in the opposition is at an all time low simply because for the past two years we’ve been hearing nothing but the same old rigmarole about pride, prejudice, and pain. For some reason, it seems that no one in Pakatan has any idea about priorities.
Yes, Mahathir was a dictator. He has admitted it himself. But he is also currently the most credentialed of Najib’s opponents. Pakatan has little choice but to swallow pride, prejudice and pain and work with him if it is serious about unseating Najib.
Mahathir has a lot to apologise for to a lot of people, but the longer this is made an issue that blocks cooperation between his party and Pakatan, the less viable any makeshift opposition coalition will look to the people.
Mahathir is not getting any younger and Pakatan cannot pretend that he has an infinite amount of energy to spend campaigning against Najib. Here is an asset par excellence, and not making use of him is foolishness of the highest order.