Racing against the clock
Emmanuel Samarathisa | 29 Mar 2019 00:30
As the world’s oldest prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a trailblazer. In 2016, at 91 years of age, he came out of retirement and bandied with the unlikeliest men and women from the then opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) to oust the man he once endorsed as premier, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Two years later in 2018, he achieved his dream.
A masterful orator and communicator, Mahathir did what PH struggled to do: to win a portion of the Malay polity and communicate in simple terms the financial scandal involving Najib and his brainchild, state investment vehicle 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB). “The money has been stolen” and “Najib is a thief” were some of the slogans Mahathir put forth in his campaigns that captured the attention of the masses.
In the run-up to the May 9 general election, both Mahathir and Najib upped the ante. Najib pulled out every trick in the Umno playbook to match his former mentor Mahathir and PH’s populist slogans and biting criticism of 1MDB. But PH prevailed, effectively ushering in a new era for Malaysia, where for the first time in history the Barisan Nasional and Umno which ironically catapulted Mahathir to prime minister from 1981-2003, saw the nonagenarian return as the country’s leader.
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