Dr Mahathir Mohamad is generally recognised as a statesman, one who has done much for Malaysia. For that, he is well loved by many Malaysians and deserves his rightful place in history.
But Mahathir is also an enigma and at times difficult to understand. In his previous term in office, his way of governance was full of controversies.
Now, at 94, it would seem he has not changed much.
Initially there was relief that he had mellowed down considerably and was more prepared to listen to others in running the country in line with the narratives of Malaysia Baru.
But along the way he has shown streaks of the old strong-arm rule, much to the chagrin of many.
His dismissive attitude that election promises are not cast in stone, the lack of urgency to form the royal commission into judicial misconduct, slow establishment of IPCMC, reversals on ICERD and the Rome Statute, appointment of the new MACC chief commissioner, cavalier response to the “Azmin Ali” sex videos as well as ambiguous statements on handing over power to Anwar Ibrahim are all cause of great concern to us.
Interviewed by Bloomberg in Bangkok recently, he was vague and ambiguous, saying that no specific timeline for the handover has been set.
In another interview, he told CNBC that he would not “go beyond three years”.
Back in Malaysia, he denied saying that he would step down as prime minister within three years.
“I did not say three years,” he said, adding that he wanted to “correct the work” that was being done.
Now which is which? We are left wondering whether it is a case of misreporting or just forgetfulness on the part of Mahathir.
The public would want to know the true position. It would help if Mahathir and CNBC could clarify the matter.
This latest twist to the succession issue is certainly not good for the nation. It creates uncertainty over a key issue of the nation and is bound to distract the people from the larger agenda of nation building.
It gives room for opponents to manipulate the issue and sow further discord between Mahathir and Anwar as well as within PH.
It could bring about political acrimony between stakeholders and within PH.
They say a fish rots from the head down. Are we about to witness that now?
It is inevitable that this vexing issue will again be a subject of further debate. We have the right to ask, when will this charade stop?
We must be mindful of the voices of discord, including from political relics of the past. People like Rais Yatim are not only no longer relevant under the new narratives of Malaysia Baru but are not helpful to the cause of PH. They are best ignored and left to their own frolics.
As the prime minister, Mahathir has to do what is right to address the problems of the nation, especially the pressing issues.
Among them is the succession plan and the alleged sex videos scandal involving Mahathir’s blue-eyed boy, Azmin Ali.
On the succession issue, after we take into account the good relations and understanding between Mahathir and Anwar and the agreement of the PH component parties, let us take it that the agreed timeframe for the handover of power from Mahathir to Anwar will be within three years.
On the gay sex scandal, too much has been said about it. The government has allowed the controversy to rage for far too long with no satisfactory closure.
Justice delayed is justice denied. The people just want to know the truth, and to see justice dispensed to all parties concerned. Then we can move on with the larger agenda of nation building.
The prime minister and PH not only need to engage with the people on a myriad of issues of the day, they also need to listen to the pulse on the ground. They need to be in sync with the sentiments and expectations of the majority.
Good governance is not simply pursuing populist policies and playing to the gallery. There will be times when the government has to prescribe bitter pills to the nation which may be against popular aspirations. But the government has no choice but to engage with the people.
It needs to explain issues to the people and provide sufficient room for discourse and even dissent.
Gone are the days of rule by one strong leader who could ride roughshod over the people, Cabinet and other relevant stakeholders.
PH parties must not dabble or interfere in each other’s internal politics. They should focus more on efforts to counter the resurgent opposition parties of Umno and PAS.
As it is, there are signs of interference in the affairs of others as parties seek to outdo one another in the power play and configure the political equation of the day. This is very bad for PH.
In the meantime, the people cannot simply fold their arms and sit idly by to watch the political proceedings of the nation.
They must sustain the pressure on the leaders to do what they think is right for the nation.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.