Of late, there have been calls for minister Mohamed Azmin Ali to go on leave pending investigations into the gay sex video scandal in which he has been implicated. I have followed Malaysian politics closely for more than 50 years and I wish to share some views as a septuagenarian because it is something I feel strongly about.
Having grown up before Merdeka, I saw the tremendous development this country underwent. No one is more responsible for this growth than one man – Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
For 22 years during his first tenure as PM, his firm resolve to transform the country from a backwater to an industrialised nation and put Malaysian on the world map was without equal. It will be a long time before we see a man of his calibre and stature emerge again.
Last year, he was again entrusted to lead the nation after Pakatan Harapan won the watershed general election. He inherited a nation that needed much rebuilding, no thanks to the mismanagement during the Najib administration as manifested by the 1MDB scandal.
At 94, he has to put up with a schedule and routine that even those half his age would find difficult to keep up with. Worse still, his Cabinet is filled with inexperienced ministers prone to gaffes, while pockets of the civil service are still loyal to the previous administration. This is absolutely unfair to a man who ought to be enjoying his twilight years in a more laid-back environment and in the company of his loved ones.
Last year, I suffered a minor stroke and this rattled me to the core as I thought my time had arrived. For decades prior to my retirement, I had been putting in punishing hours at work and did extensive travelling, purportedly for the family, but they were the ones I neglected the most. I wanted to spend more time with them, but at 78 and with the kids living in other states and countries, travelling has become a chore. My health scare last year made me cherish time with the family even more.
My point in this letter is: it is not about whether Azmin should take leave or not. It is time we allowed Mahathir to call it a day. If you cherish him as a leader, a statesman and an individual, give him a break. Getting him to stay on to “sort things out” is selfish on the part of those who desire to see him continue being in power.
As for those who think that we should let Mahathir sort out the country’s problems – not just the fallout from the gay sex videos linked to Azmin – all I can say is that it’s time we grew up. We can’t be depending on the same doctor to treat us all the time. It is time we let him go.
Give it some time and new leaders will emerge. There might be growing pains in the interim but we are stronger than we think. The best example is Mahathir himself. When he took over in 1981, I remember clearly the doubts many had over his ability. Eventually, he grew into the job and took the country to another level.
From the bottom of my heart, and as an elderly man who may not have many more birthday celebrations left (if at all), I sincerely hope you will publish this piece. Because I speak from experience about getting our priorities right. Family means the world to me, and I am sure, deep down, it does to the PM too. For now, we need to let Mahathir go.
Yee Thang Kuan is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.