To trust Mahathir or not, that is the question

By Kenneth Lee

Like many people around the world, I have dreamt of a lot of things, including those which are impossible. But the one thing I never dreamed of was Lim Kit Siang, Anwar Ibrahim and DAP supporting Dr Mahathir Mohamad as Malaysia’s next prime minister.

In fact, Mahathir has been surprising everyone lately with his statesman-like speeches and actions: recognising the contributions of the Chinese and their role in Malaysia’s progress; highlighting the plight of downtrodden Indians neglected during his time as prime minister; pledging to eradicate corruption and cronyism; endorsing DAP as a multiracial party working towards a better Malaysia for all; and reconciling with Anwar and Lim to emerge as Malaysia’s “Three Musketeers” with a mission to right the numerous wrongs in the country. He has even apologised for some of his misdeeds and expressed regret for what happened to Anwar when he was prime minister.

In reality, the person we have to thank for turning the impossible into reality is not Mahathir, but Najib Razak. If the prime minister had reconciled with Mahathir, this unthinkable scenario would never have happened. It was just that Mahathir’s agenda and that of Najib did not harmonise – it appears that their agendas, whatever they may be, were in conflict.

Najib, having the prime-ministership and the upper hand, was uncompromising, and Mahathir had no choice but to back down and retire for good, or pursue his agenda via an alternative route.

The route via Umno was closed by Najib. All other routes, local and international, were blocked or unfeasible. The only route open to Mahathir was the opposition.

This route mandated a partnership with PKR and DAP, once demonised by Mahathir, and reconciliation with Anwar and Lim, both of whom he had incarcerated in the past. While DAP and PKR via the earlier Pakatan Rakyat have been clear about their mission and goals for a creating a democratic, multiracial and egalitarian Malaysia, Mahathir was until recently ambivalent about his mission and goals in the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) arrangement.

With GE14 around the corner, Mahathir has started to make open pledges and promises on what he seeks to achieve: the restoration of democracy, freedom of press, a two-term prime-ministership, Anwar as his successor, multiracial agenda, etc. These are beyond the mere removal of Najib as prime minister if PH wins GE14.

However, many are still sceptical over Mahathir’s change of heart, ideals and ethics. They attribute the many ills inflicting the country (Ketuanan Melayu, Malaysia as an Islamic state, racism, religious fundamentalism, deterioration of democracy, rampant corruption, deterioration of law and order, rise in crime, problem of illegal immigrants, deterioration of education, etc) to Mahathir. They are, therefore, justified in viewing his pledges and promises with suspicion as he does not have a solid and consistent track record in his declarations and statements.

“To trust or not to trust Mahathir”, that is the question on the minds of many non-partisan Malaysians. Mahathir’s long track record of dumping anyone or any party when it suits him is obvious to all – eg. the list of his ex-deputies, his praise and tirades of serving prime ministers, and his ins and outs of Umno. Mahathir’s tendency to go back on his words by claiming to have been misunderstood, misheard or misquoted is also well-known. Then, there is his selective memory as in the RCI on the Lingam video. And although he had been very firm in his support of the ISA, NEP, Ketuanan Melayu, etc and critical of Anwar, Lim, etc up to three years ago, he has now changed his stand on these issues after joining the opposition.

Given this situation, it is necessary for Mahathir to not only openly declare but also sign a pledge, with clear unambiguous details, on his mission, goals and plans for Malaysia.

The pledge should also include details of the consequences for him if he fails to operate and live by that pledge. Such a pledge could convince many sceptics that Mahathir has truly transformed and will serve as an honest, clean and sincere prime minister and statesman for all Malaysians should PH form the next government.

Kenneth Lee is an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.