By Paul Bellow
Dr Mahathir Mohamad is loath to leave the political arena despite becoming a footnote in history.
The 98-year-old doctor has ignored the writing on the wall that proclaims loudly, clearly and unequivocally that he is a spent force.
The medicine man had all the chance in the world to mould Malaysia into a country that could have been the envy of the world in the 22 years he was in power in his first stint.
He even had a shot at redemption during his 22-month second stint from 2018, when he could have steered the ship of state on a steady course after it was listing badly from mismanagement at the hands of his former protege, who is now spending his days staring at the four walls of a prison cell.
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But instead of leading the country to balmy weather and calmer waters, the physician ran into a violent squall that sank his ship. Typhoon Sheraton shattered whatever more visions he had in store.
It would have done him and the country a lot of good if he had packed his bag and retired to an idyllic setting like Langkawi Island, where he could have reminisced about the time when he sat on top of the world and called the shots.
Better still, Mahathir could have slipped into the role of a senior statesman to dispense the wealth of his ‘wisdom’ freely to whoever cared to listen.
Instead, the man chose a controversial path. He bounced back. He believed he was the face of Malaysia and no one could emulate him. He hoisted himself onto the national stage and, in the years that followed, played the role of a bugbear.
To his credit or discredit, he was largely responsible for ‘toppling’ two successors – one whom he believed was responsible for the ruling coalition’s poor performance in 2008 and the other for his corrupt ways.
When Mahathir returned the second time, he ignited hope for a better future. But to the horror of many, his behaviour following his downfall laid bare his true colours.
Unable to get his hands on Putrajaya the third time, rejected by his Langkawi constituency, the nonagenarian veered sharply off course to become an ardent newborn champion of the ethnic Malays.
Frayed medical bag
A new Mahathir has emerged – the real Mahathir who discarded his mask of old and went on a political rampage to demolish some venerable concepts that have supported the pillars of democracy in this land for over six decades.
The doctor must have searched his mind for ‘medicine’ he could use to regain his political footing. He must have rummaged through his frayed medical bag for something more potent for a dramatic re-entry into politics.
And he found it: the ‘bottle’ labelled ‘toxic’. The medicine? ‘Racism’. When he injected it into the highly charged political environment, it triggered an immediate allergic reaction among non-Malay ‘patients’.
Mahathir is a desperate man who finds even the politics of extremism attractive if it serves to promote his personal agenda.
The ex-PM has even turned ‘green’ to team up with an Islamist party whose doctrinaire outlook on life gels well with his own fevered thinking. Indeed, the state of Mahathir’s politics these days is looking decidedly unhealthy.
Paul Bellow is the pseudonym of a reader of Aliran