By P Gunasegaram

My day today (yesterday):
Breakfast: Tun M was our PM
Lunch: Tun M wasn’t our PM
Dinner: Tun M is our PM
I am now afraid to have supper
– WhatsApp message

Another current joke going around during these trying times – humour is a great antidote to stress – is that PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is creating another world record, overthrowing his own government to head another government which he will lead.

But in the process what he will be doing is to shatter the dreams of Malaysians for a better country which will be based on a more honest, accountable, competent and equitable government which will give a better life to all its citizens.

Instead, this man with a dubious and dishonourable past as I explained here who the rakyat forgave and embraced as the person who will lead the country out of the tunnel and into the light, has raised the spectre of a horrifying nightmare of unimaginable consequences.

When the coup that he must have known about did not transpire as Sabah and Sarawak parties withdrew or withheld support for a proposed new coalition, he moved to his plan B and resigned. According to the constitution, the entire cabinet had to go too.

And who better than him to be interim prime minister again? And so the King appointed him interim prime minister with the right to form a caretaker government. While sources told some media that this would be 10 days, Attorney-General Tommy Thomas forthwith disabused them of this notion saying that there is no time limit attached to the office and the interim PM can appoint ministers.

Presumably, things can only change if a vote of confidence is moved on him in Parliament which sits from March 9, in which case the King can confirm him in his appointment. If a vote of no confidence is successfully moved against him, the King can consider appointing someone else in his place who can command a majority in Parliament.

Seen in this light, it is more than likely that Mahathir can continue as PM until the next general election unless providence decides otherwise or Mahathir himself decides to step down. But in favour of who?

The important thing to note is that since his appointment does not come from an endorsement by Harapan itself, he is under no obligation to make way for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to become prime minister, and there is absolutely nothing Harapan – reduced to a weakened Harapan – can do about it anymore, its chance long gone.

In the unlikely event that a vote of no confidence is passed against Mahathir, but no other person commands a clear majority, then it may be up to the King to dissolve Parliament if advised to do so by the interim PM. 

Anwar, after his meeting with Mahathir, cleared him of any part in the coup conspiracy but he is out of touch with reality or is playing with the pretence. Does he expect that the entire Bersatu MPs all decided to go against Mahathir, including Mahathir’s son Mukhriz? Surely not.

The DAP’s pathetic fawning and grovelling over the interim PM after a long, deafening silence, and along with PKR and Amanah, supporting him as PM is only to be expected because Mahathir is back in power dispensing Cabinet seats – if you are in his good books you will get something, otherwise forget it. He favours acquiescence not competence.  

He is, despite his denials, throwing in his lot with people who robbed this country, a kleptocratic party whose elected MPs and assemblymen endorsed Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s unprecedented thievery of billions, to achieve what he probably believes as the be-all of Malaysian politics – ketuanan Melayu in all its ugly, corrupt forms where the phrase is used to mask corruption and incompetence, with the ordinary Malay left out of this process of so-called wealth distribution.

Imagine the horse-trading that would need to be done for such a dirty deal to be made – dropping of charges, kickbacks, projects, posts, promises, etc – and what that would do to a country already limping and bleeding through corrupt practices which are palmed off as helping the Malays.

It is a select group of Malays who get richer and richer by squandering the wealth of the nation to those who are already immensely wealthy. In the process, they deprive those who are poor and those who are struggling to make ends meet by keeping their wages depressed and their opportunities scarce. 

The sum total is that the nation will fall head-first into a deep abyss from which it may never be able to crawl out of. And so expect the markets to fall and the currency to go to new lows, investments to dry up, and confidence to plummet.

The new government will transpire – with or without PKR and/or DAP and/or Amanah but it will not be one that the rakyat wanted – one which reflects the original spirit of the coalition and of reform for the long term with everyone having a stake and working towards a new Malaysia.

Mahathir’s Bersatu – yes, it is still very much his despite his resignation as its chairman and despite all the puppet and shadow plays – is out of Harapan, but the three who formed the original coalition are still calling for Mahathir to be PM. How silly and ridiculous and devoid of all principle that is.

Even if Mahathir deigns some seats to PKR, DAP and Amanah in his yet to be announced cabinet, there is a huge trust deficit that will make any kind of meaningful partnership impossible.

Even at this late stage, if PKR, DAP and Amanah remain united in their promise of a transition to Anwar of the leadership and of reform and change, they can put his name up for PM and try and get the numbers. If they lose so be it – live and fight another day. At least they would have tried to do what was promised to the rakyat.

But now in a humiliating endorsement of Mahathir, they have lost everything and have become completely beholden to and besotted with him instead and in the process, all of them have singly and collectively betrayed the people who they purport to represent and forgotten the promises made before the election.

The truth is Mahathir never wanted Anwar to succeed him – every action of his in the past such as moving goalposts, not setting a firm date, creating uncertainties – all of these indicated that unless he had absolutely no choice he will not hand power to Anwar.

If Anwar still suffers the delusion that Mahathir genuinely wanted him to succeed, then the events of the past few days, coming upon a blanket licence given to Mahathir just a day earlier by Harapan to step down when he wanted, should have opened his eyes. 

If not, nothing else will. – Feb 25, 2020


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