When you do wrong, you apologise. This is what former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has done. It takes a lot of courage for a person to humble himself and say the three magic words, “I am sorry.”
He could have done this ages ago, but at this stage, it is irrelevant. Malaysia is suffering and the ordinary man in the street fares the worst. Mahathir has apologised for the deeds he committed while in politics, and we should move on to rebuild Malaysia.
Usually, a person who apologises is seen as magnanimous, but what if the people to whom the apology is directed demand more than a mere apology?
Like it or not, each and every one of us has been affected by Mahathir’s policies in one way or another. You could say, that we are all Mahathir’s children, some treated more preferentially than others. Those who could not bear his authoritarian ways, simply left or rebelled. His favourites excelled.
Mahathir became involved in politics in the 1940s but stamped his mark on Umno, twenty years later. He could never see eye to eye with Tunku Abdul Rahman and an open letter in 1969 purportedly coming from Mahathir, which demanded Tunku’s resignation, prompted Malaysia’s first PM to expel him from the party.
Mahathir was a good teacher. He told us to jump and we asked, “How high?” We obeyed him without question.
His book, “The Malay Dilemma”, gave the Malays a new sense of identity and an ego to match. He dared to defy the white masters, and this increased his stature in the eyes of the Malays. One of his students is the current PM, whose father plucked him from the political wilderness and made him a senator in 1972. The rest is history.
Today, Malaysia reaps what Mahathir has sown. We marvel at the skyscrapers, in the Mahathir-tropolis, but it was built at great cost. Malays who were dirt poor, were lifted out of poverty. He created a massive Malay middle-class, who enjoyed many perks and opportunities previously denied them.
The only problem was that many people lived in a moral vacuum. Greed and selfishness triumphed, just like Mahathir’s Petronas twin-towers. Today, he must be aware that he created a monster. He has admitted that removing Najib Abdul Razak is not enough and that Umno has to go.
Before, struggling non-Malays did not hesitate to settle and work abroad, whilst the Malays prevaricated about change. This is no longer true. Malays are now part of the brain drain.
The wealthy non-Malays are also part of the problem. They do not know the suffering of their poorer cousins. They keep their noses clean, and avoid upsetting the ruling party, for obvious reasons.
Mahathir has apologised, but that is not enough for some people. Nothing in this world is perfect. No marriage, spouse, house, car, holiday or medical treatment is perfect. We make the best of what we have.
Mahathir’s critics accuse the opposition of being fragmented. They claim that Mahathir is only interested in continuing his legacy. They refuse to accept a woman PM. They refuse to accept a non-Malay PM. They refuse to use Mahathir and tap his skills to overthrow the present government. They do not offer an alternative solution, or alternative candidates, and yet many of them would rather spoil their votes in GE14.
Talk about cutting off their noses, to spite their faces.
If you really want change, go and vote, do not spoil your vote. If you do that, you will give Umno another five years of rule. In those five years, Malaysia may deteriorate to a state that would be unrecognisable to the rakyat of Malaysia, today.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
* The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.