No holds barred: Kit Siang’s final advice to Tun M

BEFORE the 15th General Election (GE15) on Nov 19 last year, I advised two doyens of Malaysian politics, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, not to contest in the general election but to take on advisory roles.

But both Dr Mahathir and Razaleigh went on to contest in the GE15 and lost with the former – a two-time prime minister (PM) for a total of some 25 years – even lost his deposit.

I do not expect my final advice to be heeded but for the good of Dr Mahathir and Malaysia, I have to make it.

I have not met Dr Mahathir since the Sheraton Move political conspiracy in February 2020 and since my retirement from front-line politics in March 2022, hence I will make it through an open letter.

Dr Mahathir burst into the Malaysian political firmament when he penned “The Malay Dilemma” in 1970 and acquired the appellation of a Malay ultra. His book “The Malay Dilemma” was promptly banned by the first PM Tunku Abdul Rahman with the ban fully supported by Tun Razak Hussein and Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman.

Lim Kit Siang

Dr Mahathir joined the Cabinet as education minister in 1974 and became the fourth PM of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003.

In 1991, he launched Vision 2020, declaring that “by the year 2020, Malaysia can be a united nation with a confident Malaysian society, infused by strong moral and ethical values, living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous”, among others.

He resigned as PM in October 2003 but in 2018, led the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to end the UMNO political hegemony by becoming Malaysia’s seventh PM, only to last for 22 months until being toppled by the Sheraton Move political conspiracy in February 2020.

In 2021, Dr Mahathir announced the failure of Vision 2020. In his post-Sheraton Move book, Dr Mahathir criticised his successor and backdoor PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for his “Malay first” declaration.

Malays as an endangered race

But in 2023, Dr Mahathir declared that Malays were losing their political power and that a non-Malay could become Malaysia’s PM in two general elections.

If the Malays have become an endangered race, it is Dr Mahathir’s greatest personal failure for he had twice been PM for a total of some 25 years. What did he do to save the Malays from becoming an endangered race in Malaysia under his watch?

But it is not true that the Malays have lost political power or become an endangered race. Just like when he launched Vision 2020, he was not announcing the beginning of the Malays as an endangered race in Malaysia.

The arguments that the Malays are an endangered race are false and baseless, just like the wild and preposterous allegations of PAS president Tan Sri Hadi Awang that the DAP is anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-royalty, communist and promoting Islamophobia.

Or the allegation that DAP was behind the 2018 government move to ratify ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) when all DAP leaders in and out of government were ignorant of the move.

Has Dr Mahathir progressed from “The Malaya Dilemma” to “Vision 2020”? Or has he regressed from “Vision 2020” to a position that is worse than “The Malay Dilemma”?

No political party is asking for a non-Malay PM in the next few elections. I am on record as saying that I do not expect to see a non-Malay to become PM in my lifetime or even my children’s lifetime.

But the nation’s founding fathers, Datuk Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein Onn (the first four UMNO presidents), Tun Tan Cheng Lock (first MCA president)  and Tun V.T. Sambanthan (furst MIC president) envisaged a nation comprising Malays and non-Malays, and that is why there is Article 43 in the Malaysian Constitution which does not limit a PM to the Malays – meaning that non-Malays are not constitutionally barred from holding the office of PM.

Still harping on “Malay Dilemma”?

Why has Dr Mahathir reneged on what he had promised in Vision 2020 and disagreed with the first four UMNO presidents that a non-Malay is not constitutionally barred from being the PM of Malaysia although it does not look politically likely in this century.

Even the US took 200 years for a black man (Barack Obama) to become president, and nobody could predict when a second black person could again become the US president.

Why is Dr Mahathir opposed to what the first four UMNO presidents and the nation’s founding fathers had agreed as the original nation-building principles of Malaysia as a plural nation?

The most important question in Malaysia today is whether Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or region, can reset and return to the original nation-building principles of our nation’s founding fathers to reunite a very polarised plural society, and make Malaysia a first-rate world-class nation.

Is Dr Mahathir prepared to return to re-work his “Vision 2020” or is he committed to “The Malay Dilemma” which has led to the 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) and Jana Wibawa mega scandals.

After six decades of Malaysian nation-building and half a century of Rukun Negara, we should be talking about the “Malaysian Dilemma” instead of the “Malay Dilemma” or the “Non-Malay Dilemma”.

We have slipped from a first-rate world-class nation to a second-class mediocre country. We have become a nation in decline. Are we fated to end up as a divided, failed, and kleptocratic state on Malaysia’s Centennial in 2057?

Is Dr Mahathir ready to spend the rest of his life to champion “Vision 2020” where Malaysians – whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans or Kadazans – can maximise their potential or to re-live “The Malay Dilemma”?

This is the choice before Dr Mahathir today. The country and its citizens whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans, are today endangered by rampant corruption and unscrupulous incitement of racial and religious emotions.

The 10th PM Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has given a tough speech last weekend. This is the time for tough action! – March 21, 2023


Veteran lawmaker and retired DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang is the incumbent MP for Iskandar Puteri.

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

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE