The parliamentary by-election in Tanjung Piai, Johor, is a watershed event. The landslide victory for the opposition, of a seat held by Pakatan Harapan, is a cause of grave concern for the newly installed government.
I am sure there will be a lot of analysis and post mortems carried out to determine what went wrong, and what needs to be rectified.
It was also a referendum of sorts of the leadership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad. And what an outcome it was. In political terms, it was a knockout. The results should, in my humble view, help the PM to hasten the transfer of power, for the good of the nation.
1. The uncertainty about the leadership of the nation has resulted in businesses holding back their investments and expansion. This uncertainty has also diverted the attention of the nation from more pressing issues such as rejuvenating the economy, eradication of rampant corruption and reforms of the check and balance in institutions.
2. The prime minister is 94 years old and not in his prime. He has undergone two major heart surgeries. If anything happens to him, with no clear transition time frame, it may be detrimental to the country’s political stability.
3. The retirement age for civil servants is 60 years old. For judges, it is 65 years. This indicates the prime time for a person to contribute actively before he goes into a more advisory role and less of a day to day role.
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore retired at the age of 65 on the premise that there are more capable younger leaders who can contribute to nation-building effectively.
Even assuming that politicians are ‘supermen’, an extended retirement date should still not be too far off. Many countries have term limits for their head of government to prevent leaders from over-staying their welcome.
4. The PM has not been able to carry out the reform agenda, for whatever reason. Good intentions, if not communicated well, will not be understood by the people. He is not a reformist in the first place. In fact, his style of leadership and policies were the target of reformists all along.
5. The people who wanted a change from a corrupt and incompetent regime before accepted Mahathir as an interim PM for his vast experience. This condition is docked on the premise that Anwar Ibrahim, who is really the icon of the reform movement, would take over as soon as he was pardoned within two years of the 14th general election.
This decision is to be made by the party that holds the most number of seats in Parliament.
Malaysia needs to move away from a third world feudalistic mindset that the leader is everything and all, and the reason for the nation’s advance and well being.
Excluding the 31 million other Malaysians contribution to nation-building is unfair.
What we need are national institutions that are independent, with high integrity, a nation that respects the Constitution and its laws.
Courageous citizens who mind these institutions and are not easily bullied by the people in power. The separation of powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary should be sacrosanct.
Once this line is crossed, there may not be a stop to transgressions as we have witnessed with the previous regime.
To Mahathir, your legacy is well entrenched in the annals of the nation’s history. The people will honour your contribution to the nation. For that we thank you.
Mohd Jamaludin Mohamed Shamsudin is the chief executive of the Allied Coordinating Committee of Islamic NGOs.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.