Commentary Politics

Another political stunt & still no takers

A prime minister for 22 years, 14 years into his retirement and yet at 91 years old, Mahathir is open to any suggestion for him to be PM all over again!

Written by Aziz Hassan

June 5, 2017.

Recollections & Reflections – A weekly column

JUST when we thought there were no surprises left, out of the hat came yet another political stunt.

There appears though to be a contradiction of sorts, with former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed on the one hand reminding his viewers that he had said he would not sit on the same chair again when he retired in 2003.

But there he was, also stating that he could not ignore his friends in Pakatan Harapan.

Quote: “If they have such a suggestion and it is agreed upon, then I might be forced to consider. At this point I don’t agree to be prime minister.”

Safe answer and an open ended one, coming from the man who ruled this country for 22 years and who thinks that even at the age of 91 – and 14 years after leaving office – he still has it in him to be PM all over again.

The idea first came from his former detractor but now bosom buddy Datuk Seri Zaid Ibrahim but there was no take-up from there, which must have been a big letdown for Mahathir.

The latest development on this was a recent recording of an interview that was published at Mahathir’s Facebook page.

But just like the first time, so far no one in the opposition Pakatan or anyone else of significance has warmed to the idea promoted by the “#HangTanyaCheDetJawab (You Ask, Che Det Answers) interview.

Apart from that initiative by Zaid, it’s tough to imagine any of the Pakatan leaders agreeing to even nominate Mahathir for the job again.

What is clear and beyond dispute up to this point is that the only person Pakatan wants as PM is the jailed de facto opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, although getting him there would not be without its many obstacles even after he is set free of his five-year sentence.

Even if Mahathir somehow manages to convince enough Pakatan leaders to pick him over Anwar, the other roadblock awaiting Mahathir is the PKR Youth, who thinks that having the party just co-habitating with Mahathir is bad for the party.

Remember too that these youths formed the backbone of the reformasi movement that took to the streets in 1998 after Mahathir sacked Anwar from the government and the ruling party.

So what can we make out from Pakatan’s willingness to work with Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia but showing almost no interest in having Mahathir as PM again?

It looks like Pakatan is simply grabbing the opportunity that comes, mindful that Mahathir and his boys in Pribumi Bersatu can be counted upon to bring in some votes but that’s where everything else stops.

Almost all the Pakatan leaders were already in the opposition when Mahathir was PM from 1981 to 2003 and more than a few were detained under the then Internal Security Act.

Strong words were used to make these leaders feel small. Who would believe anyone who says these people have long forgotten what Mahathir did to them and what he is capable of doing as prime minister?

In the meantime, barely a year after it was founded, Pribumi Bersatu appears to be on shaky grounds, with members in Perak especially deserting the party.

Party president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin may have his suspicions about the person instigating this but the fact remains that the desertions are getting worse.

About two years ago, when Mahathir started to hammer away at sitting prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, a friend said what he saw on social media showed that young Malaysians were warming up to Mahathir and clearly expressing their support for him.

This doesn’t come as a surprise if we are talking about those aged 30 years or below.

The oldest of this lot would have been only 16 when Mahathir decided to quit and that would have been too young to truly understand what the man was all about in his 22 years as PM.

Not for the next generation and the next and the next though.

Remember the many letters to the press from senior Malaysians suggesting that Mahathir should leave his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (now also a tun) to do his job without interference?

In other words, they were also telling Mahathir to simply enjoy his retirement and not to expect Abdullah to do his bidding.



About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.