KUALA LUMPUR – November 22, 2016: It was a debut appearance but what an irony it was.
Since becoming perhaps the harshest critic of the sitting prime minister since early last year, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, himself a prime minister for 22 years, has done so many about-turns on fundamental issues that no one is able to tell what flip-flop will come next.
Last night saw Mahathir taking another step that was simply unthinkable when he ruled the country.
And there was Mahathir at a candlelight vigil to show solidarity for what fellow supporters refer to as an unjustly detained Bersih leader in the form of Maria Chin Abdullah.
Mahathir however did make clear earlier where his sympathies were when the 91-year-old said he was saddened by the arrest of Maria.
She is being detained under the Special Offences (Security Measures) Act (Sosma) after being arrested last Friday, hours before Bersih took to the city’s streets in an unlawful rally. The reason for her detention is for allegedly attempting to commit activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy.
Together with the crowd at the vigil at Dataran Merdeka last night with wife Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohd. Ali, they were heard chanting “free Maria”.
“Where was Mahathir when he arrested people using the ISA (Internal Security Act),” chided an anonymous commentor in the comments section of a news portal carrying the news. “At that time did he even shout the word ‘bebas’ (free)?”
“So now they’re making a hero out of this old tyrant? How pathetic can some of us be? It’s no wonder the country is suffering… most of us are championing bigots,” wrote Mathew Lutu at Facebook.
“You were the one who chose an evil and greedy human being to be your disciple. The people are suffering because of your mistakes… so now we want you to get rid of this garbage,” wrote Soo Sin Ong.
Some even deemed Mahathir’s attendance at the vigil as a mere gimmick to boost his and his son, former Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz’s popularity with opposition party supporters.
“He knows that Mukhriz’s popularity in the opposition ranks is dimming. That is why he’s pulling out all the stops,” Kenny Ng wrote.
Ben Louis thinks that Mukhriz should attend more functions organised by those who are fighting against the government.
“If not, then the rumour of his (Mukhriz’s) propensity in sitting comfortably during his tenure as the Kedah MB may ring true,” he wrote.
Mahathir supporters, however, saluted him for his unwavering determination.
“He’s 91 years old but is still doing his best to topple an oppressive regime. Keep it up Tun (Dr Mahathir),” Sharon Piang wrote.
“You are a true Malaysian Tun! I salute you! Long live Bersih! Free Maria Chin!” wrote Vincent Cheong.