Strong-arm tactics don’t work anymore, Dr M

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) leadership is under severe stress. Many challenging issues, new and old, continue to dog the PH government.

Some are inherited, and some are created by external forces including the opposition.

Others, meanwhile, are self-inflicted.

Let us just focus on two raging issues: Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s call to Malay parties to join PPBM, and the gay sex videos allegedly involving Mohamed Azmin Ali.

Mahathir said he found more and more Malay parties being formed, which reduces their chances of winning elections.

When asked whether there would be objections from PH component parties, he effectively said it was not their problem to worry about.

That is a rather high-handed approach to be taken by a prime minister who heads the ruling coalition. The disregard for the views of component parties is not in keeping with the spirit of the coalition or its raison d’etre.

Does Mahathir think that the esprit de corps expected of each party is no longer relevant now that he is safely entrenched in power?

In essence, the call is directed at all Malay political parties. It would therefore mean that it is also directed to PKR and Amanah.

But is Mahathir also expecting these two parties to disband and join PPBM? It would make perfect sense if the call was meant to stir only the Umno and PAS hornets, as they are a troubling opposition.

But to also direct it at component parties is not only politically incorrect but insensitive.

What does it mean to PKR and Amanah?

Khalid Samad was probably being polite when he responded by saying that to bring all Malay parties under one umbrella is easier said than done. Mohamad Sabu was his usual pliant self, agreeing with everything Mahathir does or says.

Mahathir should remember how difficult it was for the relevant stakeholders to bring PH into being. A lot of effort, time and sacrifices were needed. The pains and sorrows of the past had to be forgotten and forgiven to enable the coalition to forge ahead.

Everybody was prepared to put aside personal issues for the sake of the larger agenda of the nation and people.

Now, after all that, it is surely not up to one person, not even Mahathir as an iconic leader, to decide how to go from here.

Anwar Ibrahim has good reason to be concerned over Mahathir’s call. He, too, tried his best to downplay it, saying that Mahathir as the PPBM chairman has the right to decide what political strategy to adopt for his party.

But as the head of PH, Mahathir has to explain the meaning of his call to top leaders of component parties.

Nothing substantive was reported about the PH presidential council meeting. We are left to presume that nothing came out of it.

Then, there is still no closure to the gay sex saga allegedly involving Azmin. At the outset of the police investigations, police chief Abdul Hamid Bador made it clear that the investigations were primarily to determine the authenticity of the clips.

Months have passed, and the police appear to be dragging their feet, unable or unwilling to make a finding on the matter whereas many independent forensic experts have long made their conclusions.

People are beginning to question the credibility and integrity of Hamid, who came to office with a grand promise to abide by the rule of law, and a crusade to clean up the force.

Is this turning out to be a sad case of a wishful cop who came into office with plenty of promises, with sound and fury signifying nothing?

Or is he serving the agenda of certain political masters through the manner in which he is handling the case?

Police investigations now seem to focus on the people who produced and distributed the videos, a secondary plot to the whole issue. The recent arrests raised more questions than answers.

Hamid started to show his displeasure when probed further by the media on the latest turn of events. He has no right to do so.

The 2018 general election was the culmination of the work-in-progress by the then-opposition since its early days. It would be wrong for Mahathir and those around him to think too highly of their contributions to the victory.

Likewise for Mahathir critics, it would be wrong for them to think that they could have pulled off the success without Mahathir at the helm.

The truth is, PH needed the contributions of all its component parties and their leaders to make it successful.

The fact is, even before Mahathir joined the fray at the late stage, PH was already doing fine. In 2008, the opposition managed to deny Barisan Nasional its two-thirds majority. In 2013, its popular votes were more than BN’s.

BN was ready for the taking at the subsequent election.

So when Mahathir made an appeasement with Anwar, Lim Kit Siang, Lim Guan Eng, Mat Sabu and other political foes to establish PH, it was the final piece needed in the jigsaw puzzle to bring down the old order. This Herculean feat was made possible through the combined efforts of all.

Now is not the time for any one party or leader to act as he pleases or according to his whims and fancies to the exclusion of other stakeholders.

All parties must adopt a more pragmatic attitude wherein they recognise the larger purpose of PH.

Leaders, no matter how powerful and mighty, must not allow themselves to be carried away by delusions of grandeur.

Time is no longer on Mahathir’s side. He can no longer afford to play too much politics. Instead, he must focus on addressing the problems of the nation.

He must not allow himself to be sidetracked by intra-party politics or a desire to have a stranglehold on power. He should not ride roughshod over the other component parties of PH with the strong-arm tactics of old, but must respect them and not encroach on their respective turfs.

Mahathir must forget his call for all Malay parties to join PPBM, especially if it means to include the ruling parties.

At the same time, he must quickly step in to resolve the gay sex scandal. People expect him to show decisive leadership. This issue has become both criminal and political. He must not allow his personal agenda to dictate his actions.

Mahathir must do what is right and what is expected of him if he wants the people to continue respecting him as the numero uno of the nation.

Do not wait for the people to rise up in an open rebellion. The results would be devastating for all.

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