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Give reforms a chance: Why Mahathir must hand over to Anwar now

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Just as Malaysians gave Mahathir a second chance, many feel it is only appropriate that Anwar is given the same opportunity, writes K Haridas.

Many of us from civil society responded to the call for “Reformasi” and worked with the opposition to bring about regime change after 61 years of Barisan Nasional (and its predecessor, the Alliance)-rule.

Now the squabbles within PKR are threatening the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition. The underlying challenge is the tension between the reformers on one side and those who want to maintain the status quo.

This can be seen in the slow delivery of the promises made in the PH manifesto. The personality struggles between those in power and the racial undertones expressed all add to the confusing situation.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mahathir must honour his promise and hand over to Anwar Ibrahim as agreed, ie within a timeframe of two years. While I wish Mahathir the very best, it is not conceivable that he will be the PM until the next elections due in three years, when he would be 96 or 97 years old.

Mahathir has been a Machiavellian politician for whom the ends have always justified the means. This has been his traditional style and it is not unlike him to say that the challenges within PKR raise questions on the handover to Anwar.

Many forces are at work including the purported “deep state”, and they do not prefer the reform agenda. They are countering the reform agenda using racial undertones suggesting it would come at a cost to the Malays.

Let us for a moment consider the major players. Apart from Anwar, Azmin Ali and some in Umno, where are the credible leaders? Bersatu – apart from Mahathir – has no leaders except for some discredited turncoats from Umno who never had the spine to stand up and be counted.

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I will not for a moment support Azmin Ali because if a leader cannot even stand up for his personal credibility, what has he got to offer? Secondly, if he owes money (allegedly as much as RM300,000) for travel and does not pay the travel agency, then this says a lot.

Anyone whose credibility has been tarnished and who has not yet cleared his name remains a politician whose intentions will invariably be questioned.

Further, what has Azmin’s contribution been of late apart from playing politics and dividing his party, PKR, now that he realises his future looks unpromising?

Despite all their religiosity, Pas is another party lacking in outstanding leaders who could be mentors.

The only person I see who has both paid an enormous personal price and stood up against the relentless trials and tribulations brought against him by the previous government is Anwar Ibrahim.

I respect him for his “reform agenda”, which is critical for this nation in the long run. Issues like the separation of powers, the abolition of restrictive acts, a judicial selection committee, electoral reforms and the recommendations of the Select Committee for Institutional Reforms are all necessary.

Anwar, together with his family, has paid a huge price personally. When a man spends as much time in prison as he did, there are aspects of self- reflection and introspection that make an inner difference in his life. We see in him and in his views a broader mindset and an inclusive approach. For this and more, he stands in need of our faith in him and his leadership. He remains the person whom we can hold accountable.

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The lukewarm response by people like Mahathir only reveals that they are not interested in leaving this nation as a progressive democratic country. Those who play the race-religion-and-royalty game are politicians devoid of a commitment to make the lives of the citizens of Malaysia better. They show little interest in upholding the rights of all the people, tackling poverty, wiping out corruption and responding to the legitimate interests of the people of Sabah and Sarawak.

The common scapegoats are the DAP, the Chinese agenda, issues of race and religion. These are the smokescreens or red herrings that are often floated to distract people from the real issues facing the bottom 40% of households and other poorer sectors of the Malaysian community.

PKR should stay committed to leaders with credibility. Azmin is definitely not one of them. To waste our time on this issue is to fall victim to the ploys of those who want to destabilise the nation, split the ruling coalition and roll back the promises made by this government.

Many who have lost the trappings of power now are facing the possibility of judicial cases and realise that their only hope lies in bringing back a semblance of the old regime.

The Umno-MCA-MIC combine represents a coalition we are familiar with. What do they stand for apart from being imprisoned within their ethnic ghettos or “three Rs” mindsets? Many of them are there only for themselves and do not have a reform agenda. The gap between their promises and their delivery is large and nebulous. As we consider their erstwhile leaders, we can only conclude that many of them have done well for themselves personally, secured titles and honours – and sold the nation’s integrity. How many of them have accepted personal responsibility for their lapses? Many of them have violated their oath of office and loyalty to the Constitution. The ongoing trials of some of their leaders seem to support this view.

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Trust is at its lowest and the present government has many challenges to face in finance, the economy, security and justice.

We need a party that serves all Malaysians and has objectives that go beyond race, religion and royalty. We need to regain credibility in the eyes of the world as to what it means to be a Malaysian and to restore the dignity due to all Malaysians.

For all Mahathir’s talk of Islamic values in the administration, his Vision 2020, Rukunegara and Islam Hadhari, nothing has helped to bridge the ethnic divide. While it is easy for Mahathir to blame the Malays, he himself takes no responsibility. He has been part of the problems Malaysia has faced for the last three decades. We have given him a second chance but he seems not to have lost his spots.

The Malaysia of 2020 needs more than what Mahathir can deliver. So it is only appropriate for him to hand over the reins to the prime-minister-in-waiting, who has a reform agenda. Give him the three years so that we can hold him responsible and accountable.

Not to do so will only show Mahathir in a bad light. Just as Malaysians gave Mahathir a second chance, many of us feel it is only appropriate that Anwar is given the same opportunity. In doing so, Mahathir will to some extent redeem himself.

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