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Mahathir must step down to save Reformasi

COMMENT | It should be plain by now that we are on the threshold of seeing the reincarnation of Umno through Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his party Bersatu.

Soon, the scores of Umno MPs will dwindle to a handful, with almost all the defecting MPs migrating to boost up the small number of Bersatu MPs, making the latter party one of the largest, if not the largest component party of the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition.

What’s wrong with stuffing up Bersatu with ex-Umno MPs that would increase Harapan’s total numbers?

There would be nothing seriously wrong with that actually, if Umno had not almost ruined the country with astronomical corruption, corroded the entire government administration, and fractured the country with unbridled racism and religious extremism – and if the country was not being led by a dubious reformist leader, Mahathir.

Mahathir has shown unmistakable signs that he is reverting to his previous mode of autocratic rule in the Umno era, during which he destroyed democratic institutions, enhanced racism and brought rampant corruption and cronyism, which system of governance later served as a foundation for former premier Najib Abdul Razak to launch his world-renowned massive kleptocratic frolics.

Mahathir is no reformist

That Mahathir is no reformist is evidenced from his refusal to abolish the myriad repressive laws and dismantle racist institutions, like the brainwashing set-up of the National Civics Bureau (BTN) as pledged before the last election.

His reluctance to bring in institutional reforms is also seen in his persistent refusal to disclose the reports of the Committee for Institutional Reforms and the Council of Eminent Persons. It is obvious that the revelation of those reports would have embarrassed him for his lack of action in the direction recommended in such reports.

That he has not abandoned his racist conviction is seen in the lack of effort to reform the heavily prejudiced mindset of the Malay masses on race and religion, who have been indoctrinated by Umno’s false propaganda for decades.

A government led by a truly reformist leader would have placed such re-education of the masses as one of its top priorities, to be followed by the gradual and orderly dismantling of pervasive racial discrimination in education and public service, which are now mired in mediocrity as a result of such a racist policy.

Mahathir’s racist mindset is also evidenced from his outright rejection of the restoration of local council elections, as well as the non-ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discriminations (Icerd) without any reservation, which is against Harapan’s earlier promise to the electorate and Mahathir’s own pledge in the UN Assembly.

An Umno die-hard

In retrospect, one would have observed that Mahathir has never admitted that the racist and corrupt rule of Umno is wrong. His only complaint is that Najib’s atrocious corruption had devasted Umno and threatened to destroy the country in due course.

In fact, he had time and again said prior to the election that once Najib is replaced, everything would be fine and dandy again.

Naturally, when he has achieved exactly that by ousting Najib, his next step would be to revive Umno. And that, to him, would kill two birds with one stone.

In addition to allowing him to rule like the good old days of Umno, he could refuse to hand over the reins to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as pledged.

Indeed, it is arguable that he has never intended to honour the Harapan consensus of passing the premiership to Anwar.

This is evident from his lack of acknowledgment of his status as an interim prime minister to fill the gap before Anwar could legally qualify as one, as well as his oft-repeated wishy-washy and flip-flopping utterings on the length of his interim premiership, varying from one to two years, to two to three years to “as long as the people want me to serve,” and always ending with the proviso that “if the people accept Anwar as prime minister.”

Obsession with power

Mahathir’s obsession with hanging on to power perhaps explains any plan to bolster the dwarf size of his party’s presence in Parliament with the large pool of Umno MPs.

This stands in contrast to Anwar’s unflinching refusal to accept defecting MPs from Umno out of his fidelity to the Reformasi cause, for which he had willingly endured unparalleled sufferings and persecution for the past two decades.

We are at the cusp of the first turning point for the country in history. And the decision we make today with regards to Mahathir’s imminent embrace of Umno’s defecting flock will determine the nation’s fate for perhaps generations to come.

A bold and correct decision would mean this fledging reformist coalition would continue to sail on its Reformasi course to bring brighter days for all.

On the other hand, a wrong or weak decision may mean prolonged agony with the prospect of plunging the country back into the wretched days of yore, characterised by repression, racism and corruption.

Knowing Mahathir’s character, negotiations with him regarding Umno’s defectors just wouldn't do.

Clean solution

The only clean solution would be for Mahathir to pass the baton over to Anwar now.

And that would not only save the day for Harapan and the nation’s reform aspirations, but would also earn Mahathir a permanent place in history as the leader who led the successful overthrow of the decadent Umno regime and ushering in the New Malaysia.

Component parties of the coalition – PKR, DAP and Amanah – have been observed to be hitherto rather submissive to Mahathir’s autocratic style of rule. However, this is a unique moment in history that calls for extraordinary action.

Will the leaders of PKR, DAP and Amanah rise to the occasion and boldly act to set the nation on the right course, or will they timidly avoid the hard decision, causing the country to drift downwards irresolutely?

The nation awaits the answer with bated breath.

KIM QUEK is the author of the banned book The March to Putrajaya, and bestseller Where to, Malaysia?

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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