Rahim Noor and the ‘new Malaysia’

Malaysians supported the leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Pakatan Harapan (PH), but not without conditions. With the opposition now weak and in disarray, we expect PH leaders to speak up when the situation warrants it.

It is obvious that some decisions are being made without common sense and proper consultation.

I thought we had had enough of power being concentrated in the hands of the prime minister. I thought it was arbitrariness, opaqueness and dictatorial tendencies that caused so many of Malaysia’s problems in the past.

But now, I see the same trends emerging. Despite talk of a “new Malaysia”, I see the same stubbornness and doggedness of those in power when it comes to certain issues. I can also see the same docility and tameness in those who are supposed to speak up.

For goodness’ sake, can we stop using the term “prerogative of the prime minister” for a while? The prime minister is the first among equals, he is not pre-eminent. No amount of institutional reforms is going to work if Cabinet members are made up of people with subservient mentalities.

What does it mean for the “new Malaysia” when we appoint former inspector-general of police Abdul Rahim Noor as the new facilitator in the southern Thailand peace process? To me, the issue is not just that he assaulted Anwar Ibrahim. He could have assaulted anybody. The consequence should be the same: he can be forgiven, but he cannot and should not be given any position, no matter what. If his expertise is needed, he can contribute by providing advice, but without a formal position.

What has happened to the idealists, reformers and champions of human rights within PH? We can say what we want, but at least Khairy Jamaluddin spoke up against Rahim’s appointment although not in many words. And of course, Nurul Izzah Anwar herself naturally and rightly stood by her father’s side.

But what about the rest of the PH leaders, with the exception of out-of-favour Dr Boo Cheng Hau of DAP and Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid of PKR? Why was there no outpouring of disgust? The silence is more than deafening.

I want to believe that there is genuine partnership in PH and between Mahathir and Anwar. But the appointment of Rahim by whoever in the establishment seems to suggest that something very insensitive, disturbing and “Palpatine-like”, to borrow Khairy’s words, has taken place.

Maybe Anwar really has too many people who are afraid of him becoming prime minister. Sometimes, I wonder why our leaders are so prone to shadow-boxing, manipulating and re-aligning. Selfish ambition is boundless, really.

TK Chua is an FMT reader.

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