Commentary Politics

Mahathir, the man who thinks he is god’s one and only choice as PM

Mahathir (right) is clearly peeved that Muhyddin is now PM and has gone into overdrive to attack the latter from all sides.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

March 13, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

WE hear it all the time, this talk from politicians about how much they care for the national interests and those of the people but the moment they are out-thought, the knives are out to target the other side.

This eight government of Malaysia is not even a week old and yet all manner of doubts are being directed at new prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his Cabinet who were sworn in just last Tuesday, with a former minister who lost office together with his Pakatan Harapan government going to the ridiculous extent of criticising the Cabinet for not having a clear direction and policies.

There is no manifesto that drives this Cabinet,” was the reaction from former Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad. And you thought that manifestos are what political parties come up with while campaigning to be elected.

By now Malaysian politicians in senior leadership positions should realise why Malaysians are contemptuous of them and find politics objectionable and something that only brings uncertainty, intrigue and factionalism as among the negatives the people have to endure with.

Whether you agree with it, Muhyiddin was legally and constitutionally appointed by the Agong. Anyone who disagrees will have to go to court or wait for the next Parliament session beginning May 18 to try and unseat the government. But anyone who intends to try and have a no confidence vote against the Perikatan Nasional government will have to come up with truly compelling reasons, especially if there is nothing fundamentally wrong with it. Only people with ulterior motives and full of self-interests would want to attempt such a vote.

Mahathir and his apple-polishers in overdrive to demonise Muhyiddin

Despite the political crisis being over since last week, those aligned to Pakatan and especially former prime minister Mahathir Mohamed simply refuse to let go, with Mahathir going into overdrive to demonise and slay Muhyiddin in the endless interviews he has been giving the press. The writings and comments from Mahathir and his supporters are littered with stories from the past, as if all of us have led squeaky clean lives without any skeletons in the closet. In the situation we are in now, of what good is talking about the past?

It is clear from what was told by his own backers that Mahathir was no longer in control of his Pribumi Bersatu party in the early days of the crisis and he too admitted to losing command.

That fiery Pribumi Bersatu meeting was a result of a challenge thrown at it the night before at the Pakatan presidential council meeting, a council in which Mahathir was in as its chairman, then out and then in again. Similarly his position as Pribumi Bersatu chairman – in, out and in again within a matter of a few days.

Much noise has been made about the (political) legitimacy of Muhyiddin’s government, especially since it doesn’t have the people’s mandate. Among those highlighting this point were in Pakatan. But if only they had paused for a moment to take a look in the mirror, to for once look inwards, they would probably agree that their own big boss, Mahathir, had it in his hands to advise the Agong on fresh elections but chose not to.

Instead Mahathir was the first person to try instead to form a government. Wasn’t it Mahathir who was in discussion with Umno and PAS to achieve this objective, which failed to progress beyond that stage because Mahathir would not accept Umno en bloc?

The underlying factor that moved both Mahathir and Muhyiddin to each try and form a new government was to ensure Malay political dominance of the kind that also embraces multi-racialism.

Muhyiddin was said to have voiced his concern over Pakatan’s defeats in the by-elections that many believed were mainly caused by Malay uneasiness over what was perceived to be the Chinese-dominated DAP’s increasing influence in the federal government. Feedback from political operatives said so and the local press also sniffed the same on the ground while on assignment. Highly-charged views heard at the Pribumi Bersatu meeting too testified to this.

Mahathir has reaffirmed the popular belief that he is not prepared to let go of power

But Mahathir will always be Mahathir and his remarks since being ousted point to a man who is not prepared to live life as a 94-year-old retiree, to allow those after him to run the country their own way. This was what happened just months after he had retired as prime minister the first time later in 2003, finding faults with his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, which prompted a few to write letters to the newspapers to object to this interference.

His statement about still being chairman of Pribumi Bersatu looked like a strong indication that he will indeed continue to be active in politics because where he is concerned, no one in this country of 32.5 million people is capable of doing a job better than him. Now Mahathir himself has confirmed this is his latest press interviews.

Mahathir has also chosen to run down Anwar Ibrahim, finally opening up about what he thinks of his former chosen one, indicating that in the last three years Mahathir had played out a drama to convince the people they had made up when it now looks like it was only to ensure that his position as PM was not at risk.

The problem with people is that when they talk too much too often, they can end up shooting at themselves in the foot. Thus in talking about Muhyiddin the PM, Mahathir was in fact giving us an insight into what he too was like as PM for almost 24 years, not once but twice.

In his own words: “Now that he (Muhyiddin) is government, he can give ‘sweets’ to many. I find that some of those who used to be my supporters have now been appointed ministers, and they have moved to that side.”

Needless to say his own Pribumi Bersatu had more MPs than those first elected in the May 2018 elections also due to defections mainly from Umno but that’s Malaysian politics that doesn’t bar elected representative from switching sides as and when convenient to them.

But let’s not give too many details about Mahathir’s moans and groans because to do that is like giving legitimacy to his criticisms.

His latest reaction to question the wisdom of accepting Muhyiddin’s hand in forgiveness is yet another indication of Mahathir’s arrogance, aloofness and lack of magnanimity. Truly megalomaniacal.

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About the author

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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.