Dr M as a PM for third time? Heaven forbid that ever happens!

By Julian Tan


MALAYSIA’S longest-serving prime minister and once the world’s oldest head of Government wants to have another go at the premiership. No surprises there as the two-time Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 95, always has “unfinished business” to settle.

During a Facebook live session last week, the nonagenarian, who cumulatively ruled Malaysia for almost quarter of a century said his supporters had pushed for him to contest in the next general election.

The elder statesman said he had wanted to call it a day but his supporters were angry and wanted him to stand in the polls, which is due by 2023, or earlier than that.

His supporters probably believe that a third stint as premier could be a charm, after Mahathir’s first tenure, lasting 22 years, was riddled with controversies like corruption and subjugating civil liberties while the second, 22-month stint, was cut short by the “Sheraton Move”.

But seriously? Why do we need someone who was born 14 years before World War II to save the country from woes, many of which were attributed to him? And can the country’s fourth, seventh and aspiring ninth PM please stop using the excuse that his supporters had pressured him to stand in the polls?

Feedback gleaned from a handful of supporters is by no means indicative of ground sentiment. The truth is, many Malaysians have still not gotten over some of the blunders made by Mahathir during his second stint as prime minister; not even touching their views of his first tenure.

For one, many non-Malays have not gotten over the fact that the author of “The Malay Dilemma” was back to his racial posturing antics the moment he went back to Putrajaya, after scoring an upset win over Barisan Nasional (BN) in the 2018 polls.

Barely had Pakatan Harapan (PH) warmed its seat of power, Mahathir joined opposing Umno and PAS leaders in attending the Malay Dignity Congress in 2019, much to the chagrin of his coalition’s non-Malay partners.

Ironically, Pakatan went into the election on the promise of being an inclusive Government, with none of the race and religion baiting which the Umno-led Barisan Nasional was notorious for.

And what about the institutional reforms promised by Pakatan as contained in its election manifesto?

Past his prime yet couldn’t let go

Blaming its short stint in power does not cut it because some reforms do not require legislative amendments but can be introduced with a stroke of the pen, such as recognising the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC).

But they dragged their feet, so much so, Pakatan shot itself in the foot numerous times.

Corruption was still rampant despite Pakatan railing against the crooked ways of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s administration, especially the 1Malaysia Development Board (1MDB) scandal. The likes of ex-Finance Minister-turned-tycoon Tun Daim Zainuddin, Mahathir’s longtime lieutenant, called the shots on economic matters and key corporate appointments in government-linked companies (GLCs). 

And who can forget how Mahathir close friend and businessman, the late Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing emerged from the shadows after keeping a low profile for 16 years, promising to build a multi-billion-ringgit project in Langkawi, Mahathir’s constituency, less than a month after Pakatan’s historic win?

And let’s not get started on the “Sheraton Move”. As prime minister, it would be inconceivable that he was in the dark over moves by the likes of Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali and Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin that would checkmate Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s ascension to power.

Why didn’t Mahathir put a stop to such moves? It did not help that his refusal to set a clear timeline for the transition of power to Anwar has emboldened the masterminds of the political putsch that threw the country into a crisis, just as COVID-19 was starting to sweep across the nation.

His abrupt resignation as the prime minister at the height of the early 2020 political crisis was the final straw that saw Pakatan’s ouster from Putrajaya. Had he not resigned, when no one had asked him to, Pakatan could still be in power. But his rash decision threw the ruling coalition into a tailspin.

These are good enough reasons why Malaysians are pleased to see the back of Mahathir. His time had come and gone and now it’s for the younger ones to carry the mantle. With luck, a new “Mahathir” may emerge from the ranks – one who’s progressive and bursting with ideas but without the political baggage of yesteryears. – May 15, 2021


Julian Tan is a FocusM editorial contributor.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


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