By Sebastian Loh
“If saying something that is similar to the opposition makes me aligned with the opposition, then Najib must be more with the opposition than me because he agreed with the opposition to abolish the ISA, the prevention of crime law and to ignore the NEP. He also wanted to abolish the Sedition Act as demanded by the opposition. If Umno did not object, the Sedition Act would have been abolished. So is Najib a member of the opposition?” – Dr Mahathir Mohamad, April 7, 2015
The above is a true story. Mahathir wrote it on his personal blog as part of his furious campaign against Prime Minister Najib Razak. And I agree that the evidence is damning: Najib is indeed guilty of pursuing the reforms that the opposition has always demanded for.
The kind of reforms proposed in Pakatan Harapan manifestos and regularly chanted at the coalition’s ceramahs. And for that, he was relentlessly attacked by Mahathir.
Today, our former dictator calls our current PM a dictator. But strangely, not too long ago, he said Najib was not tough enough.
Yes, you read that right. In January 2013, he criticised the Najib administration for being afraid to use force: “Kita lihat sekarang ini, kita tak berani bertindak menggunakan kekerasan bahkan kita hapuskan segala kuasa yang ada pada kita. ISA umpamanya. Apa yang kita malu sangat dengan ISA ini?” he said in a speech in Shah Alam.
In October that same year, he slammed the BN government for its “tendency to accede to the demands of extremists in the opposition”.
Who are these extremists in the opposition, I wonder? The same people asking for more democracy and more freedom of speech? The same people who have now allied with Mahathir in their (bizarrely contradictory) quest for more democracy and freedom of speech?
The fact is, this obsession with “extremists” is a long-running theme in Mahathir’s thought.
In 2012, the year when the ISA was finally abolished, he expressed displeasure at Najib’s moves to give more democratic space to Malaysians.
“When you open up things — you become liberal — it is the extremists, the aggressive ones, who project their views,” he said in an interview.
“There is more antagonism between races than before there was this liberalisation,” Mahathir had been quoted as saying.
You know, he’s completely right. “Extremist” movements like Pakatan Harapan and Bersih would have never gotten this far if his successors Abdullah Badawi and Najib hadn’t given them so much face.
Where was the political will to ISA these troublemakers out of existence? Where was the political courage to unleash scores of kicking and beating cops on protesters like the glory days of 1998?
In those respects, Pak Lah and Najib have been bitter disappointments.
If only they had listened to Mahathir. They wouldn’t have faced such a strong opposition.
“Pakatan would not have grown if Mahathir is still in power, because he would not allow the democratic space to be enlarged,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, back in 2013 when he was CEO of the think tank IDEAS.
Incidentally, Wan Saiful is now a member of Mahathir’s PPBM. I sure hope he doesn’t forget to thank Najib if he contests and wins a seat in GE14.
See, Najib gets a lot of heat for not doing enough reform. If that were true, then why did he get so much flak from Mahathir for doing too much reform?
If you can give me a good answer to that, I’d happily vote for Pakatan Harapan.
But here’s the most logical explanation: Najib’s reforms were broad and meaningful enough to attract the anger of the most powerful guardian of the repressive and race-based status quo – Mahathir himself.
Take a look at Mahathir’s quote at the top: He suggests that Najib neglected the NEP (New Economic Policy) – the basis of race-based policies in this country.
Why would Mahathir say that? Could it be that Najib tried to reform race-based policies to be more needs-based and race-neutral? Could it be that Najib and today’s Umno aren’t as racist as people make them out to be?
I won’t belabour this point because I have written about it many times before (see “Why the Chinese hate MCA and BN” below).
I just hope that my fellow non-Malays out there think rationally and put two and two together. It’s beyond absurd to support a backward control freak who intends to push out the very man who has been bringing the reforms we asked for.
Accordingly, a Pakatan victory in GE14 would mean that politicians will never again attempt to liberalise our laws and policies.
What’s the point if voters clearly prefer a dictator with no compunction to use “kekerasan”, and a taste for racial politics?
We might as well bring back the ISA that Najib abolished and Mahathir so lovingly defended. After all, “apa yang kita malu sangat dengan ISA ini?” to quote Mahathir.
So, Najib is a fool for trying to give us a freer and more open society. Just like Tunku Abdul Rahman, who was also savaged by Mahathir.
By giving in to “extremists” who want more freedom and more equality, Najib has clearly established himself as a member of the opposition. Hell, maybe he should be their choice for PM.
Here’s an idea: someone should find the opposition’s current candidate for PM and say that to his face.
Tun, age doesn’t matter, but substance and consistency do.
Sebastian Loh is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.