Malaysiakini : 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.
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.