Change under Mahathir, seriously?

By Karamjit Gill

Renowned scientist Thomas Henry Huxley once said, “The results of political changes are hardly ever those which their friends hope or their foes fear.”

“Change, change, change!” has been the mantra on the lips and minds of every citizen in this country. While calls for change in the administrative dynamics gave birth to Bersih and Hindraf, are the changes we long for still alive?

Is the grass greener on the other side? While Pakatan Rakyat offered us hope, has Pakatan Harapan (PH) destroyed our aspirations?

We commonly hear PH leaders alleging that Barisan Nasional (BN) and Umno have taken the country for a ride for the past 60 years. The Alliance Party under the late Tunku Abdul Rahman and BN under Tun Hussein Onn was fine. The rot started with Umno Baru in the late 80s.

Hence, the Umno the opposition refers to is Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s brainchild. Of the three decades of rule by Umno Baru, two were under Mahathir’s stewardship. Ironically, today some are supporting the same dictator who caused the undoing of the country, expecting a change.

The previous generation begged for equality and lambasted the transgressions brought by Mahathir. The favouritism and ethnic preferences widely practised were globally ridiculed. The distribution of racial equality in the service sector took a sharp decline.

Under the current leadership, we are seeing some improvement in the system. Although it is moving at a tortoise’s pace, at the least something is happening. We see Indians being appointed as DG of customs, KL police chief, director of commercial crime at Bukit Aman, and prison commissioner. Applause for such appointments highlights how we have regressed with regards to racial equality in top posts within the civil service.

For umpteen years, we asked for fairness in scholarships and increments in intake for public universities. Prime Minister Najib Razak has pledged to increase the representation of all races at public universities. However, Mahathir still defends preferential treatment for a particular ethnic group with his famous line, “They need help”. And we are screaming for a change to bring back the same guy with the same policies that our fathers and grandfathers fought against?

In the past, anybody who spoke against Mahathir and his administration faced the iron fist. Walk into any government office today and you will witness a mixture of those supporting BN and PH. How many get sacked for their differences in political belief? There seems to be some amount of political maturity today with regards to differences in political ideology.

We have seen how anybody who speaks a different language from PH gets called a traitor and ridiculed. PH does not practise freedom of speech. The flak faced by individuals like Sangeet Kaur Deo, Nurul Nuha Anwar, former DAP life member Shamsher Singh Thind, and writers like Fa Abdul for having their own stand reflects Mahathirism. We scream for political maturity and freedom, yet we intend to bring back the guy who doesn’t believe in such practices.

For decades, we cried for meritocracy in the business world. Finally, we are seeing snippets of change, the most prominent being in MAS and Proton.

On numerous occasions, Mahathir has voiced dissent for laying a level playing field. He brewed fear of competitiveness to defend his lopsided vision of single-ethnic dominance. Yet ironically, the same people who spoke against his policies in the past are turning a deaf ear to him today. Suddenly the preferential treatment is accepted. Again, are we here yearning for a change?

Although I am often on the receiving end for speaking my mind, I don’t intend to forgo my integrity for a change that is never going to happen under Mahathir. From council of elders to interim prime minister, Mahathir always wanted to call the shots. As long as Abdullah Badawi and Najib toed his lines, he never spoke against them.

In the mid-70s, when the late Tun Hussein Onn was deputy prime minister, he insisted that then-menteri besar Harun Idris be charged for bribery and corruption. Harun was charged, convicted, and sentenced for the same. A few years later when Hussein Onn was prime minister, he went to England for a medical check-up. Mahathir was then acting prime minister. In that little window, Mahathir wrote to the king and secured a royal pardon for Harun.

Today, he says he will remain for two to three years while waiting for a royal pardon for Anwar Ibrahim. Why? So he can place his son on a better footing to become the prime minister.

Mahathir still stands by his decisions and affirms that everything wrong was not his doing.

Components within PH today have lost their integrity. They have forgotten the reason for their existence, blinded by the lust for power.

When there is no insight, no responsibility, and no accountability, be assured there will be no change.

Karamjit Gill is an FMT reader.

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