ADUN SPEAKS | When Pakatan Harapan unexpectedly won the 14th General Election, Dr Mahathir Mohamad was on top of the world. He had helped to do the impossible – topple a kleptocratic regime that had run the country since in independence. With a huge amount of goodwill from a grateful electorate, he was ushered in as the steady hand that would help to guide the transition.
Even though his party had garnered only 13 seats in Parliament (compared to PKR’s 49 and DAP’s 42), he was made the interim prime minister as per the agreement before the election.
The other Harapan component parties could have easily reneged on this agreement and insist that Wan Azizah, for example, be the PM since PKR had the most number of seats in Parliament. In fact, the king had even offered her just that. But as a person of honour, she stuck with the agreement and thus Dr M became PM.
Everybody, including this writer, decided to give Mahathir the benefit of the doubt. Collectively, the Harapan parties gave him the room and space to do what was needed. The worst thing we could do was to start second-guessing him from the start.
It was quite worrying when even from early on he started harping about a third national car, even as he was saying that Harapan could not fulfil some of its promises due to lack of money.
It became more worrying when Bersatu started taking in Umno frogs despite Mahathir himself promising not to do that. Now, Bersatu’s numbers have doubled to 26 thanks to crossovers. The only reason there aren’t more is that Mahathir has not been successful in enticing more to cross over.
While the rest of the Harapan parties wanted to press forward with a multiracial agenda, Dr M seemed intent on pursuing a BN-model of having dominant Malay party control the coalition. This became obvious when he openly invited Malay-based parties in the opposition to join Bersatu. Later, he clarified this to mean inviting its members, with the intention of creating a mega-Malay party. What’s the point of this other than to become Umno 3.0?
There is an English saying, give a man an inch he will take a mile. This certainly applies to Mahathir. Instead of using the goodwill and broad leeway everyone has given him to institute much-needed reforms, he has used his prerogative to do things that are not only unpopular but goes against the ethos, value and aspirations of Harapan and its supporters.
One of the things we campaigned on was the abolition of repressive laws, which many of our leaders and leaders of civil society had been persecuted with before GE14. We don’t want such draconian laws to stay in the books because they can be easily abused. Why are they still there? Because one man still wants them to be there.
(The recent so-called Tamil Tigers crackdown using Sosma says a lot about what draconian laws could do to Malaysian citizens. Even state exco and elected representatives could not spare the tyranny.
Icerd and the Rome Statute were things that would uplift Malaysia into the company of modern nations. Because of Mahathir’s decision to give in to right-wing extremists, Malaysia is not one of the 179 nations which are signatories of Icerd Instead, we are among the 14 which are not, which includes South Sudan, Myanmar and North Korea. Not exactly something to be proud of.
While other leaders in Harapan are calling for a needs-based affirmative action policy that would help all Malaysians regardless of race or religion, Mahathir is for the continuation of the bumiputra policy. This is at odds with what Harapan stands for.
When his blue-eyed boy(s) and his cohorts called for Mahathir to serve the whole term (meaning Anwar would not succeed him after two years, as promised), instead of swatting down these calls, Dr M merely said, that’s their opinion.
He continues to refuse to name a date for the transition of power, giving people the distinct impression that he doesn’t really want to leave after two years and that perhaps his preferred successor is not Anwar. This has done nothing but creates discord in PKR. But does he care?
And what’s with the whole khat controversy? Instead of fixing the flawed matriculation system Why the need to score this own goal? It was a BN policy that should have been discarded or put on hold. Instead, he and his education minister tried to bulldoze it through and in the process damaging DAP in the eyes of the non-Malay community. But does he care?
Why does he want to harbour Indian fugitive Zakir Naik (photo), who has questioned the loyalty of Malaysian Indian Hindus and claims that Malaysian Chinese were born in China?
He claims Dong Zong is racist but says nothing about Zakir Naik. He criticises Dong Zong for “talking about one community, forgetting that this is a multiracial country". That’s rich coming from the guy who attended Perkasa's inauguration.
His recent remarks made in the Malay Dignity Congress on both the non-Malays (orang lain - 'other people' ) and Malays (lazy) were uncalled for. He's practically helping Harapan to lose more support.
Instead of uniting Harapan, his words and actions are helping to sow discord in its two biggest component parties ie PKR and DAP. Instead of uniting Malaysians, his words and actions are causing tensions to rise.
Mahathir is doing all this because he thinks he is all-powerful. He thinks because he played an important role in helping to topple BN, he can do as he wishes. He believes that because the other party leaders have so far shown him a lot of respect and deference, it is because they are scared of him.
If he ends up breaking up Harapan because of his actions, his party is the biggest to lose out. Bersatu may have 26 MPs now, but DAP, PKR, Amanah, Warisan and UPKO collectively have 113 seats in parliament, enough to form a majority. They can band together and form a government without Bersatu.
Perhaps there might be a breakaway camp from PKR. We can’t discount that. But there would also be a breakaway camp from Bersatu who would prefer to throw their lot with the other component parties. It could be a close call.
If this led to a snap election, Bersatu would be the biggest loser because it would have an alliance with nobody. At least PAS and Umno would have each other, and MCA and MIC would tag along with them. Bersatu would have no one.
It’s not too late for Mahathir to turn things around and stop doing these divisive things that are at odds with what the rest of Harpan wants. He has to remember that his party is not the biggest one in the coalition and that the people did not vote with him in mind as the prime minister for the full term.
Despite the crossovers, his party is still way behind PKR and DAP and the people had him as interim prime minister in mind when they voted for Harapan. If he continues to act as if it was otherwise, it would be the biggest miscalculation of his political life.
RONNIE LIU is the state assemblyperson for Sungai Pelek state constituency.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.