May 30, 2012
Najib-Mahathir Pact: Return of Mahathirism
by Nawawi Mohamad and Wong Choon Mei
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been praised by many, especially UMNO members and other apple polishers. He has been praised for the privatization of Malaysia, his Vision 2020, his political maneuvers and economic policies, but none of these have made Malaysia a great nation.
Instead, as a result of Mahathir’s ham-fisted policies, Malaysia has been downgraded and perceived to be trolling at the lowest levels with other rogue regimes such as Zimbabwe and Myanmar. Even Vietnam has caught up, while Indonesia has left us far behind.
No wonder the 86-year-old Mahathir is trying to salvage his legacy, but even his best-seller biography A Doctor in the House won’t make him popular again. In the eyes of his countrymen, whatever that Mahathir has done, planned, implemented and envisioned, has failed miserably.
Not tough enough! More clampdowns needed!
To Mahathir, it may well seem that his plans have suddenly gone into disarray right in front of his own eyes. He can’t accept that it could be him at fault and instead is blaming his successors for not clamping down harder on the people.
And this is why the political temperature in the country has shot up of late with police brutality becoming the norm in policing techniques and everyday life.
Mahathir is still very powerful, bolstered by the enormous wealth accumulated by his sons, cronies and family during his 22-year rule from 1981 to 2003. He knows he has made many mistakes but won’t admit it and this is why current premier Najib Razak is scrambling to please him.
Without Mahathir, Najib would be kicked out as the UMNO President and thereby the country’s PM almost immediately. Without an electoral mandate of his own and facing serious infighting from within his own UMNO party, Najib knows his limitations.
This is why the 58-year-old has U-turned on all his earlier grandiose promises of reform, although critics may also be right in their view that Najib was never really serious about bringing much-need change to Malaysia either.
Wants to be THE BOSS once again
As every facet of Malaysia goes down one by one, Mahathir remains in a state of denial. Publicly, he says he can’t bear to see Malaysia sliding within his own life time and he can’t do anything about it. But don’t rush to empathize, one might be mistaken.
Critics say he does not care that much about Malaysia at all. Mahathir is only interested in his own legacy, which has crumbled, and of course to see his son Mukhriz made the Mentri Besar or chief minister of Kedah before being catapulted into the PM’s chair when it is time for Najib to step down.
Najib may have taken over from Abdullah Badawi but there is no doubt he indirectly inherited the mountain of socio-economic problems dogging Malaysia from Mahathir. It is Mahathir who led Malaysia into huge debt as the great majority of his mega projects were implemented on borrowed money.
National oil firm PETRONAS was milked dry to bail out the firms controlled by his cronies and sons whenever these projects turned sour as they invariably did. With such rampant corruption and mismanagement, plus a policy priority to enrich the elite leaders in UMNO, the privatization of Malaysia became dysfunctional without any proper business management practices. This in effect made Malaysia incompetent and uncompetitive.
Now, Mahathir wants to wear his ‘economic top dog’ hat again. It is clear he still wants to call the shots. Just days ago, he told a foreign news interview that a Greek pullout from the Euro Zone, plus even a China economic slowdown, could not affect Malaysia.
But who is he kidding? Central Bank Negara chief Zeti Aziz has admitted that it would be “unimaginable” if Greece failed to stay on the Euro course for financial reform. Trade-dependent Malaysia would surely be hit one way or another by the ensuing global ripple and the more so when its National Debt is now at RM560 billion and growing.
So why did Mahathir try to gloss over the possibility of financial catastrophe but minced no words when he talked about Najib’s “weak” position. The older man readily said that despite being able to escape the effects of an external economic meltdown, Najib should defer holding the 13th general election till later this year.
“Being weak, he has to respond to the criticisms. But when you are faced with this problem anything you do is not enough… maybe sometime in the next five months before the end of the year,” Mahathir told Bloomberg, referring to the best timing for the GE-13.
Personal stake in GE-13
Indeed, in GE-13, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and his Pakatan Rakyat coalition are rated to have an even chance of wresting the federal government – the first-ever regime change in Malaysia since the British colonizers left in 1957.
It certainly did not go unnoticed when Mahathir came out strongly to back Najib for ordering the most violent police crackdown on civilians ever during the April 28, 2012, BERSIH 3.0 rally for free and fair elections.
Not only did Mahathir stoutly defend the use of brute force on peaceful marchers, he also accused the BERSIH organizers of conspiring with Anwar and Pakatan to topple the BN government with a Tahrir Square or Arab Spring-type of people’s uprising. No one was surprised when Najib promptly echoed Mahathir’s words.
The older man then followed up by warning that if Pakatan won GE-13, there would be “unceasing violence”. His political posturing and maneuvering was roundly condemned and his motives slammed as being evil and “dangerous”.
“What is evident is that Mahathir has a personal stake in the outcome in the next general elections as to cause him to do his utmost, including concocting lies and falsehoods that BERSIH 3.0 was a ‘warm-up’ by Pakatan Rakyat for violent demonstrations to reject the results of the next elections if the Opposition should fail it or that the Malays will lose political power in their own country if UMNO is defeated,” said DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang.
“Could it be that it has sunk in on him after the BERSIH 3.0 rally that UMNO and Barisan Nasional can be voted out of power in Putrajaya in the next general election, and this meant that the long list of financial scandals and abuses of power in his 22 years as Prime Minister could finally be the subject of a full inquiry and he is doing his utmost to prevent the full story of his 22-year premiership from being told?
Mahathir now the de-facto PM
For sure, Mahathir is worried sick for himself and his family. A look as to how Indonesia resolved the corruption of former president Suharto and the fabulous wealth accumulated by his family would indeed spark the chills for Mahathir. Not only would wealth be impounded, jail terms, lengthy court trials and total disgrace are on the cards.
But Mahathir is either made of sterner stuff or believes that his luck has far from run out. Instead of planning or negotiating for the best exit, he is now trying hard to promote his son Mukhriz (right) as the next Kedah chief minister, while making statement and offering unsolicited advice as if he were still the PM.
The drama and Mahathir’s outspoken comments of the past few days have not been lost on other UMNO leaders, nor on their Pakatan rivals.
“There is obviously a huge split in UMNO and they are not able to come to terms. Otherwise there is no reason for Mahathir to publicly advise Najib to delay GE-13. He could have just made a phone call. Mahathir wants UMNO to know that if Najib delays GE-13 to September or even to 2013, Najib still has his support,” PKR vice president Tian Chua told Malaysia Chronicle.
“Yes, Dr M is terrified of losing GE-13 but before that is the UMNO party elections. He and Najib will go all out to ensure their men win and the rest will be sidelined. The Badawi faction, the Tengku Razaleigh faction and even Muhyiddin Yassin (the current Deputy Prime Minister) will find themselves marginalized. This looks like the deal Dr M has struck with Najib. Mahathir will be the de-facto PM, Najib will just provide the facade. He and Rosmah will go on official overseas functions and walkabouts. But the serious social and economic policies will go back to the Mahathir table. Yes, Mahathirism is back and we have to be very careful and on guard.”
Not enough to stop the exodus into Pakatan
The UMNO party polls is slated for December 2012, while speculation is rife that GE-13 will now be in September or even next year and not mid-June or July as previously touted.
A grand BN rally due to take place on June 17 had been expected to provide Najib the platform to declare a July ballot but after the massive fallout from his mishandling of BERSIH 3.0 and Mahathir’s inability to regain public popularity and respect, chances are higher for GE-13 to take place later this year or early next year. BN’s mandate to rule expires in March 2013.
Meanwhile, the expected exodus of UMNO-BN members and civil servants to the Pakatan has moved into higher gear, with the latest snare being the former Solicitor-General Yusof Zainal Abiden, UIA Professor Aziz Bari and Brigadier-General Abdul Hadi Abdul Khattab, who all joined Anwar’s PKR, while former Bukit Aman CID chief Fauzi Shaari joined PAS.
Howard Zinn- You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train
Asia’s March to Modernity-Kishore Mahbubani
Amartya Sen–Development as Freedom