Malaysiakini Opinion

The irrational fear of criticising Mahathir

James Chai  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | There is an irrational fear out there. Many Pakatan Harapan supporters are extremely fearful of criticising Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s government.

They imagine criticism to be like throwing stones at an already-delicate glasshouse. If we criticise this supposedly infant government, it would tumble and we would usher back another era of BN-Umno and Najib Abdul Razak. Thus, what we should do is be staunch defenders of Mahathir’s government; anyone who thinks otherwise is a BN supporter on a hangover.

But this fear is wholly irrational. Criticising the current government will not cause it to tumble; criticising Mahathir’s regime will not bring us back to Najib’s regime; criticising powerholders does not make you a corrupt, unprincipled, unkindly BN supporter.

I have no doubt that many fearmongers are driven primarily by the good intention of protecting the precious spoils of the sweet May 9 victory. But if we truly intend to prevent a return of BN-Umno and Najib, then we must be ready to criticise our government openly and frequently.

What we should fear is not criticism; what we should fear is the fear of criticism.

First, we should always be prepared to criticise the government because it is in the public interest to do so. While Najib may have treated the government coffers as his personal property, we must ensure that Mahathir’s government recognises the fundamental principle that governments are public trustees of our tax money.

It follows logically that every decision the government makes must be transparent, and upon any suspicion of wrongdoing, we must be ready to demand an explanation and/or criticise. For example, before the government embarks on a major project such as a third national car or the maintenance of the National Civics Bureau (BTN), we are entitled to demand explanations. If there are no explanations forthcoming, or if they were unsatisfactory, we must criticise...

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