To say that politics is a dirty business is an understatement. Nevertheless there are boundaries and one should never resort to making personal attacks on a political opponent just to score some political points.
Recently, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, launched a personal attack on former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his Indian lineage. No Malaysian PM has been of pure Malay stock; they had Thai, Bugis, Turkish, Indian or Chinese ancestry. Many DPMs for that matter, were also of other lineage with Zahid himself being of Indonesian stock.
It is unacceptable of Zahid to use his position, as Home Minister to make public what should be a private matter. Worse still, the Director-General of the National Registration Department was complicit in making public what should have been kept private.
Data Protection laws, to protect private information from leaking-out, are a recent phenomenon. Today, it appears that leaders ignore the law, and use personal data with impunity, to gain political mileage. If both Zahid and the NRD Director-General cannot be trusted with our private information, who can?
Mahathir’s lineage was not previously an issue for Zahid. Why is it an issue now?
Does Umno despair for its chances in GE14? Is it fearful of the stronger and more formidable alliance of Mahathir with the opposition?
Is Zahid trying to make Malays despise Mahathir, despite some of the former PM’s contributions to the nation?
At the weekend, Zahid accused Mahathir of politically exploiting the Malays throughout his 22-year rule. So, what else is new? Didn’t the original Umno and Umno-Baru exploit the Malays for power? For 60 years, Barisan Nasional and its forerunner, The Alliance, exploited the Malays.
The Malays have been exploited throughout history, even by the original rulers from Palembang.
Our former colonial masters, the Dutch, Portuguese and British exploited us.
Successive PMs used the Malays, the dominant race in Malaya/Malaysia, for more or less the same reasons.
If anyone is to be blamed for taking their eye off the ball, then blame the Malays. Why did they not rally against Mahathir when he ruled over them for 22 years? Truth be told, they saw Mahathir as their saviour.
Mahathir knew the Malays to a fault, and wrote about them in The Malay Dilemma. He knew their weaknesses and tried to whip them into action, to become less sentimental, to be less servile, and to use knowledge to improve themselves. The Malays acknowledged these shortcomings and were happy to be led by Mahathir. At some point, Mahathir’s firm hand turned dictatorial, but by then, the Malays were too comfortable to bother.
When Najib Abdul Razak was the Youth Minister and Zahid was made Najib’s political secretary in 1986, Zahid did not have issues with Mahathir.
Zahid happily served under Mahathir, as the newly elected MP for Bagan Datoh, in 1995.
In 1996, Zahid became Umno-Baru Youth leader, and was answerable to Mahathir.
When Anwar Ibrahim was Deputy PM, and clashed with Mahathir, he allegedly managed to persuade Zahid to speak about corruption. This prompted Mahathir to produce a list of Umno-Baru leaders who benefited from corrupt dealings. Despite this, Zahid continued to serve Mahathir, and in 2000, was elected onto the Umno-Baru Supreme Council. Mahathir was its president.
Mahathir resigned as PM in 2003. During his 31 years in politics, Zahid showed no signs of his disapproval of Mahathir’s lineage. Why his sudden obsession with Mahathir’s ancestry?
Today, Malaysians are more mature than their leaders. When we see a corrupt act, we want it eradicated. When we see unfairness and inequality, we demand that our leaders bring about a more just system.
We are all Malaysians. Our ancestral lineage should have no bearing on the governance of the nation. Why is Zahid alienating the capable Indian Muslims and other mixed-race Malaysians, many of whom dutifully serve the rakyat?
Zahid should stop his attacks on Mahathir, and look into the mirror and question his own lineage. This spat over Mahathir’s lineage is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
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