by Lutfi Shaari
As the component parties of Perikatan Nasional and Pakatan Harapan try to work towards setting aside their own aspirations and differences to face the coming general election – a constant remains, Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his party of hangers-on.
This time may well be the last attempt by the former prime minister to cement his standing in Malaysian history before he dies.
The irony is glaring given the multiple episodes of mismanagement that took place during Mahathir’s first and second tenure, when Malaysians saw assets and companies being stripped for the benefit of a chosen few and their boys – an era of crony capitalism, with its ripple effects still being felt today.
Unfortunately, social media did not exist back then to help provide proper checks and balances on the government, which controlled almost all media outlets.
Luckily for us today, including younger Malaysians, we finally know Mahathir’s true nature.
For many, Mahathir’s return to the political arena was exhilarating, without a doubt, culminating in Pakatan Harapan capturing Putrajaya for the first time.
However, the “new Malaysia” days saw many shades of the same old colour remaining – through an increase in privatisation of government assets and even vanity projects such as the proposal for a third national car.
Not only that, we also witnessed Mahathir’s inability to work with many members of his ruling coalition partners. This led to the demise of the PH government. Clearly, it has been an ego game for Mahathir, and it will continue to be so if we allow things to slide back to where they were.
Let’s hope things are different this time around.
Despite the legacy he has built for himself over 22 years and 22 months, hardly any fanfare greeted the launch of his latest party, Pejuang. While many Bersatu chapters dismantled themselves to align with this new party, these chapters were barebone skeleton crews, anyway.
Not only that, popular figures aligned with Mahathir, such as Muda’s Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, have not yet come out to announce their full support. (In Syed Saddiq’s case, this is not really a loss considering his subpar performance as youth and sports minister and his political naivete.)
This suggests that many are sick and tired of this ‘statesman’. Again and again, he showed to everyone he would do whatever it took to secure the future of his children, notably the bumbling Mukhriz Mahathir, who somehow managed to lose the Kedah chief minister’s position twice.
It was opposition politician (and now Mahathir ally?) Lim Kit Siang who highlighted that it was during Mahathir’s 22-year tenure as prime minister that Malaysia first began to “rot”, thanks to corruption and rampant abuse of power under his administration.
Lim pointed out that it was Mahathir’s regime that “single-handedly destroyed the independence, impartiality and professionalism not only of the judiciary but also of other important national institutions like the police, the Election Commission, the anti-corruption agency, and the civil service”.
All talk of restoring ‘Malay dignity’ aside, this new party fights for nothing but the Mahathir legacy, and the sooner the people realise this, the better.
Lutfi Shaari follows the Aliran website
Note: This article was received and edited on 19 January, before news later broke of Mahathir’s latest hospitalisation