April 8, 2019.
Recollections & Reflections – A commentary by Aziz Hassan
AFTER what had happened a few months ago, no one should be too surprised that the government had made another U-turn on an international treaty it had earlier ratified but the difference this second time around was the reason given by Prime Minister Tun Dr/ Mahathir Mohamad.
The gist of it was to blame a smear campaign while also alluding to the role of someone from a royal family, which not surprisingly caused people to make their own conclusions and casting aspersions on that unnamed person. Ironic this was, when you recall what PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had said a day later when giving his two cents worth on the issue, with his claim that those from the other side had cast aspersions on politicians from the Pakatan Harapan ruling coalition.
Mahathir’s statement was a rant, with him going on a fair bit about what the campaign had aimed to do to his image and that of the government and also about Malaysia’s royalty, of which there are nine households. And there was also this bit about someone injuring another and how he would react if this were to happen – a point completely out of sync with the issue at hand and rather presumptuous – since no specific reference to an incident was offered.
Malaysians familiar with the first Mahathir administration which lasted a long 22 years until 2003 and how he has moved since becoming PM a second time around from last May know very well his ways.
Mahathir never known to kowtow to his detractors
To put it plainly and simply, Mahathir has never been known to be duly affected by criticisms against his leadership, swatting off comments and all like you would do flies. He has this “I can be bothered” attitude when responding to questions regarding criticisms against him. His way is to simply rebuff his critics, with sarcasm to spice things up.
With the Malay rulers, Mahathir got into a confrontation twice within 10 years from 1983, not long after he had assumed the highest political office in the country, the only one of six PMs the country has had to go through something like this.
He also had combative experiences with some foreign leaders, again the only one of the six to adopt this stance.
Since last May it has been more of the same, with Mahathir standing his ground despite dissenting views from lawmakers within his coalition, including the U-turn by his Pribumi Bersatu party to accept defectors from Umno and the decision, also by his party, to set up base in Sabah despite the earlier objections by friendly parties there.
Thus it is very odd that Mahathir should feel badly aggrieved by a smear campaign to the point of deciding with his Cabinet to withdraw Malaysia’s ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court just a month after agreeing to it.
More significantly, Mahathir also mentioned about a plot to try and topple him and to get the royalty to sign something against him. To put it simply, this is so far-fetched and beyond imagination because by all accounts, whatever he said about the moves being planned by his detractors are almost impossible to happen given the circumstances.
Only two ways to oust a PM — via the political system or a coup d’etat to also get rid of his government
There are only two ways how a government in Malaysia can be toppled. One is political and that’s perfectly legal. The second is a coup by the military, which by convention is unlawful.
Through the political route a prime minister can be forced out only by a vote of no confidence and there’s not even an iota of evidence to indicate that this is going to happen anytime soon, certainly not from within his coalition, although his party is third of four in the number of MPs, albeit strengthened along the way by frogs from Umno.
The only political parties that come into the picture on fundamental issues affecting the Malay rulers are the Malay parties and in the opposition there are two – Umno and PAS — and both don’t have the numbers in Parliament to rattle Mahathir’s position.
Hence, trying to oust Mahathir the political way is at best wishful thinking.
The only option left, if the Malay rulers are thinking of taking over the government, is via a coup d’etat and since independence by Malay almost 62 years ago, there has been nothing to suggest that the Malaysian Armed Forces would be more than happy to oblige. Having the prime minister’s relative to head the military was also a help. First PM Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra had one, so too his successor Tun Razak Hussain and Tun Hussein Onn after him, also Mahathir during his first reign.
So in all fairness it’s wrong for anyone to lament about being a possible victim of a forced ouster from the august office of the prime minister, either by fellow politicians or by anyone from among the nine royal families, especially if the finger is pointed not to a ruler but just an heir.
Such a theory not backed by evidence or facts is bought only by the most gullible, by those who don’t have the capacity to make a sound evaluation.
There’s no denying though that by espousing this point of view Mahathir has won some sympathisers simply because it’s a populist approach that plays on sentiments.
But all it needs is only one heir to the throne to mobilise enough lawmakers or troops to carry out his grandiose scheme? The wise amongst Malaysians will tell you to tell that to the marines…..