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MP SPEAKS | Dr M and Pakatan Harapan: Friends or foes?

MP SPEAKS | Subsequent to my earlier article on my meeting with former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, I was inundated with questions and comments from various sides of the political spectrum. 

There were those who praised the article, thanking me for sharing my views and experience with them, while there were also those who expressed disbelief that I would even bother to see the man, who to them was part and parcel of the betrayal from day one. 

And of course, there were also those who admitted that they could not make up their minds as to whether Tun was a friend or foe. As icing on the cake, there were also those who just said, “it is a complete waste of time. It is completely irrelevant because Tun is now irrelevant”. 

For those who felt that Tun was in on it from day one, they would say, “why did he resign? His resignation is clear proof of him being an accomplice to the betrayal” adding later that he then had a tinge of conscience and as a result backed out at the last moment and did not join Muhyiddin Yassin, thereby forcing Muhyiddin to become the PM instead. 

It is a fine theory if you have no difficulty in accepting the part which speaks of the "tinge of conscience".

In this writing I wish to address this issue, hoping to shed some light as to why Tun resigned the way he did and putting us all, as a result, in our current predicament. It was not explained by him in so many words but after putting two and two together, based on a few separate statements by Tun, the following is what I have managed to conclude.

But first, a brief reminder of events leading to the resignation.

On Friday, Feb 21, the Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council met and as expected the issue of transition was discussed seriously, maybe for the first time. The meeting was "hotter" than usual but not to the extent that it was about to go up in flames. 

No tables were banged nor demeaning statements made and no name calling. It was a debate on whether setting a transition date would be better, for the coalition and the general public, including investors, or otherwise. 

Bersatu's stand on the matter was for Tun to decide when he wanted to leave and no date should be set for his resignation. Then PKR deputy Azmin Ali was more specific. He wanted Tun to remain as PM until the end of the term.

In the process of the discussion, there were some accusations made, in particular towards PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim, accusing him of stage managing the personal attacks on Tun to get Tun to resign. 

Anwar took it in his stride, saying “I regret to say I am unable to control some of my party members, as is clearly evidenced by what the members of this meeting can see for themselves” while gesturing, albeit politely, to Azmin and Zuraidah Kamarudin who were in the meeting on PKR's ticket but were clearly not voicing the party's view on the matter.

In the end, to make a long story short, it came to a deadlock as no consensus could be achieved and a Bersatu member then said, “Bersatu will have to reconsider its position vis a vis the coalition if the issue pertaining to the transition cannot be agreed to”. 

This, of course, raised words of protest from those who wished for a date to be agreed to but Anwar intervened and agreed to accept Bersatu's stand on the issue and conceded that Tun should be allowed to stay on as long as he wished and no date would be set for him to resign. 

The meeting, therefore, ended with no break-up of Harapan and a press conference was held to inform the public of the decision. In short, it ended well and it was believed that a break-up was averted. But of course, that was not to be.

On the morning of Sunday, Feb 23, Bersatu had its central committee meeting. In this meeting, we were later told, Tun was pressured to take Bersatu out of Harapan. In Bersatu member Mukhriz Mahathir's words, Tun was "bullied" by the rest who were pressuring him to such an extent that it brought the old man to tears. 

We were later told that he pleaded with them not to force him to go against his promises and principles, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. 

Tun pleaded by saying that since it was agreed on Friday that he can carry on for as long as he liked, there was no reason to leave, stating at the same time that he had no problems with the cabinet. But to Tun's dismay, his own political secretary spoke against his views and argued for the central committee to vote for leaving Harapan.

Tun mentioned this particular fact later, and how he was astonished and astounded at the fact that the central committee would accept the arguments of his political secretary rather than his.

Azmin's stand on the matter could be adduced from the role he played in bringing Umno and PAS leaders to Kuala Lumpur for the visit to the Istana and the stint in Sheraton Hotel. It was obvious that on the issue of staying in Harapan, Tun was alone.

This then was the beginning of the end. When Tun left the five-hour long meeting he went home and did not attend the programme at the palace, which saw six party presidents there, including from Sabah and Sarawak. Nor did he attend the "gathering of thieves" in Sheraton. But the fact of the matter is, the damage was done. 

Tun's absence in these pre-planned events and the press conferences arranged with it, clearly indicates, to my mind, that he was not part of it. These programmes, actually failed, as Tun was not present, but all these scheming and conspiracies nonetheless had an immense effect on Tun.

To understand the impact it had on him, we must first understand how he saw himself in Harapan. To Tun, although he was the chairperson of Harapan, in reality, he believed he had no real support besides from Bersatu and Azmin's gang. 

Historically, Harapan was formed by Anwar's supporters, with Azmin objecting and without Tun. Tun joined later and Azmin, in spirit, later still. The last Harapan Presidential Council on Friday emphasised the said reality with Anwar's supporters voicing the opinion that a transition date should be set while Tun's disagreeing. 

Notwithstanding the concession made in the end, to Tun's eyes, lines were clearly drawn. His supporters were only Bersatu and Azmin with his gang.

With that in mind, on seeing both Bersatu and Azmin demanding him to bring Bersatu out of Harapan meant that he would not have any supporters in the coalition. All his supporters were leaving. 

Given this situation, he believed he could no longer remain as the prime minister of a Harapan government as he had no support within the coalition. And this was what he told the Agong.

Unfortunately for the coalition, the gap between Anwar and Tun was very real. Azmin probably was the one who made sure it remained real. Being a close confidante to Tun after the coalition won power, he would presumably have kept the ambers of hate and mistrust burning in the relationship between the two leaders. 

Tun, at the same time, believing everyone else was not supportive of him, but forced to be together due to circumstances, felt as a consequence that he needed Azmin's support. 

Incidentally, this also explains why Tun was working hard to get the "clean" Umno MPs to join him in Bersatu, not only to see his dream of seeing Bersatu replace Umno come true, but also to bolster his support in Harapan. 

As fate would have it, this move was supported by Azmin while looked upon with suspicion by Anwar's supporters. This obviously did not help in building trust between Tun and Anwar.

Given the situation, Tun did not confide in Anwar about the predicament which he was faced with. Instead, after the fateful meeting, Tun went home and tried to figure a way out without either submitting to the demands of Muhyiddin and Azmin, nor putting himself at the mercy of Anwar and his supporters. 

He was convinced that any sign of weakness on his part would be exploited by Anwar to demand a date for his resignation. 

Azmin was probably pivotal in ensuring that a wedge between the two leaders remained deeply entrenched. Azmin's ability to win Tun's trust, although Tun was fully aware that Azmin did not support his candidacy for prime minister in the beginning, speaks volumes of Azmin's ability to win people over. 

But then again, in all fairness, it may not have been so much a question of Azmin winning Tun's trust, but a desperate need for supporters on the part of Tun.

Whatever the reason, Tun felt like he was in the proverbial situation of being caught between a rock and a hard place. He would not be dependant on Harapan, which in his mind is now Anwar's supporters, nor Perikatan Nasional, which even though currently was obligingly placed under Muhyiddin, would in a short time be dominated by Umno/BN. 

Aligning Bersatu with PN would jeopardise his dream of having Bersatu replace Umno. This dilemma was with him the whole day, from the moment he left the Bersatu meeting to the late hours of the night. And he grappled with it, as I understand it, virtually on his own.

So, in the early morning of Monday, Feb 24, without consulting either Harapan or PN, Tun handed over his letter of resignation to the Agong stating that he could not remain as the leader of the nation given that he no longer had the needed support. 

It was clear from the events that followed, which I will elaborate in another article, he felt he had a plan on how to retain the premiership even without Harapan and PN. However, as we know now, what Tun hoped would happen did not and as a result, we are now under this back door PN government.

But what I want to stress, for now, is that Tun's resignation was caused by the Sheraton Move and the effect it had on him. Those who claim that the PN government came into being to save the country after Tun "willy nilly resigned" are conveniently distorting the facts to hide the dastardly role they played. 

The conniving and backstabbing treachery of the PN coalition was the reason Tun stepped down.

Anyway, the issue now is whether Tun is a friend or a foe to Harapan. I believe the fact that there are many who cannot agree on the answer to this question is one of the main reasons why Muhyiddin and Azmin were able to subvert the Harapan government. 

I believe this is the question that we must now answer and act based upon the answer with consistency and discipline. For it was because we did not answer the question with the fullest of conviction that Azmin managed to drive the wedge between the two leaders. 

If we are strong and solid in the centre, as DAP's Liew Chin Tong would say, nothing can defeat us. But the fact of the matter is we were not. And we knew it, as did Azmin. While we thought we could live with it, Azmin exploited it.

There are those who believe the problem was that we trusted Tun too much. Did we really? They believe Tun was in on it from the start. If that is the case, then why has he not come forth to claim the coveted prize and laugh at those who "trusted" him? Why is he not gloating over his "victory"? 

Why is he, even until today, in sadness, recalling how he was betrayed by his most trusted aide?

So, contrary to all those who accuse Tun of complicity and wish for us to keep a safe distance from him, I believe the solution lies in doing the exact opposite. We made the betrayal possible because we did not close our ranks. 

If we wish to get the government back and govern successfully and effectively, we must learn from our mistakes. The mistake was not that we trusted Tun but instead it lies in our allowing mistrust to run freely and not building trust particularly between the two while we had the chance. 

So in short, they say out with Tun and our problems are solved. I say instead, the solution lies in our truly embracing one another in sincerity and brotherhood, including Tun and for Tun to also embrace us as sincerely. 

I believe Tun has seen that we are the ones that he can trust. Especially without Azmin distorting his view.

Anwar said in one occasion after the fall, “Kalau kita kawan, kita kawan sungguh-sungguh. Kalau kita lawan, kita lawan sungguh-sungguh” (If we are friends, we are truly friends. If we are enemies, we are really enemies.)

Should Harapan wish to recover from this betrayal and take back the government in the coming months, Tun and Anwar must, together with their supporters, bury the hatchet once and for all. 

We can only take it back with Tun on our side and we can only keep it if the centre is solid. We have a good chance of having a solid centre this time around because Azmin, in particular, together with all those who betrayed us, will not be there to act as the "batu api" (devil's advocate) between the two.

So, is Tun a friend or foe? I say friend and... better friend than foe.

May Allah give us the oppurtunity to once again do Malaysia proud.

KHALID SAMAD is MP for Shah Alam and Amanah communications director.

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

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