The Padang Rengas Debate

March 20, 2017

COMMENT: I liken this Padang Rengas debate to  Gunfight at OK Coral. It is an encounter between old gunfighter looking for his last hurrah and a young, ambitious and astute gunslinger who knows that his adversary is no longer fast on the draw.  Advantage Nazri Aziz.

Image result for Din Merican

The debate has been aptly described as a proxy fight between Tun Dr. Mahathir (Mentor) and our incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak (Mentee).  For Najib, this debate is  also a convenient diversion from his massive political troubles arising mainly from his failure to come to grips with  the 1MDB fiasco and the lies he and his supporters told the Malaysian public and the world .

I have never agreed with Nazri’s politics, and  neither have I understood the motives of the former Prime Minister who ruled Malaysia with an iron fist for 22 years and left office in a huff leaving in his wake a shattered nation whose institutions of governance have been irreparably damaged.Why the need for this debate in the first place?

It was my good fortune to know both Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.  I followed their political careers very closely over several years. I  admired their political survival skills and  recognize their service to our country.  Both are strong and competent people -centered leaders. However, I think,  Tun Dr. Mahathir has finally met his match. By exploiting  the man’s oversized ego, the younger politician is able to draw his nonagenarian opponent to his home ground, thereby giving himself a psychological advantage.  That Tun Dr. Mahathir should take the bait surprises me. 

I know the Tun to be a  sharp strategic thinker. It is clear  to me that  age has caught up with the former Prime Minister as it must with men and women of his and my generation.We are all slowing down and taking stock of and reflecting on our lives but not the Tun.

My intellectual friend, Dr Khoo Boo Teik, who authored  a book, Paradoxes of Mahathirism: An Intellectual Biography of Mahathir Mohamad, is right in saying that Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is an engima. –Din Merican

The Padang Rengas Debate: A Verbal Lambast  between Two Generations

by Jocelyn Tan

The debate between Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz next week is expected to be fiery but not as explosive as the former PM’s confrontation with the Otai Reformasi gathering.

Image result for Mahathir-Nazri Debate

PADANG Rengas in Perak is hardly the sort of place where one would expect a political debate to take place, much less, a debate between a former Prime Minister and the Tourism Minister.

The debate, if it goes ahead, could be the most happening event Padang Rengas has ever witnessed.

Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz is the outspoken and rather capricious MP for Padang Rengas which sits somewhere between Kuala Kangsar and Taiping.  As for Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, there are few words that can adequately describe him these days so let’s just say he is even more vocal and mercurial than his would-be debater.

These two big personalities will face off in a grudge fight on March 25. All eyes will be on them even though no one has a clue as to what they intend to talk about because this debate is going to be about the personalities rather than the subject matter.

Image result for padang rengas perak

This debate idea was not sparked off by any issue. Instead it was something that evolved following news that Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin would be there on March 23, followed by Dr. Mahathir on March 25.

Now, Nazri is a macho alpha male politician, with a sort of machismo that is quite unrivaled among his fellow politicians. The Parti Pribumi folk were entering the lion’s den and he responded in typical macho fashion. He said the two big-wigs were gunning for him because they considered him a great threat.

“I welcome them, selamat datang. But don’t just come for a visit, why not contest in Padang Rengas? It would be better if Mahathir were to contest but if he cannot, then Muhyiddin can do it.”

The old lion in Dr. Mahathir bared his fangs and challenged Nazri to take him on in Langkawi. There were gasps because it sounded like Dr. Mahathir was throwing down the gauntlet in Langkawi. A day later, he clarified that he would not be contesting the general election. But Dr. Mahathir has made so many U-turns that it is best to keep an open mind on whatever he says.

Nazri offered to roll out the red carpet but Dr. Mahathir said he did not mind walking in the mud.It was a rather childish exchange between two grown men or what a Penang politician described as “two Mickey Mouse characters”. But Nazri was merely taking from the Mahathir playbook. During his time as Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir was famous for challenging his critics to contest in elections instead of just talking.

This is not the first war of words between them. A few years ago, they had clashed over the Biro Tata Negara, which Nazri claimed promoted racial sentiments but Dr. Mahathir defended as an organisation that promoted good values.

Nazri called the former Premier a “racist” and was summoned to the Prime Minister’s office. Things then were still hunky-dory between Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Dr. Mahathir, and Nazri was told to back off the elder man.

Nazri, who had been likened to a Samurai committing hara-kiri for taking on Dr Mahathir, emerged from Najib’s office with the quip, “My Shogun has spoken”.

Suffice to say that this time around, the Shogun will not be telling his Samurai to pull back.“Nazri is loyal to the boss of the day,” said Pahang tourism exco member Datuk Sharkar Shamsudin who was with the Tourism Minister in Berlin last week.

Sharkar said Nazri had also stood by Dr. Mahathir during the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Nazri came to the defence of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he was under attack by Dr. Mahathir. Likewise, he is standing by Najib now.

Nazri’s nickname in UMNO is “Chief”. He is younger than Najib by a year, they were contemporaries in UMNO but Nazri was too indepen­dent to be part of any camp.

Shortly after Najib became Prime Minister there was pressure from those around Dr. Mahathir for Najib to drop Nazri from the Cabinet. The political animal in Najib knew that people like Nazri could be problematic but they have their uses and his instincts have been spot on.

No one has had the audacity to tackle Dr. Mahathir the way Nazri does. He does not give a damn about conventions, he can be quite irreverent about rules and stature and he is the only UMNO politician who has publicly referred to Dr. Mahathir as “senile”. He occasionally comes across as too much and even rude, but he is never boring.

Dr Mahathir has been drawing good crowds in Malay areas. He is still a novelty, and the rural Malays want to hear what he has to say. On the other hand, the debate could turn out to be another political fiasco. Dr. Mahathir had a rough time at the Otai Reformis convention in Shah Alam recently.

The Otai Reformis comprises hardcore veteran supporters of Anwar. Their loyalty to him has not wavered from the day he was sacked by Dr. Mahathir. The group, led by Hulu Klang assemblyman Saari Sungip, had endured tear gas and rough treatment by the FRU when they took to the streets to protest Anwar’s imprisonment.They are still critical of Dr. Mahathir and were upset that Anwar has reconciled with his oppressor.

Dr. Mahathir turned up at the convention thinking that he could slow-talk them to come along with him on the grounds that the real enemy is Najib. Unfortunately, many of those in the audience also regard Dr.  Mahathir as the enemy.

Dr. Mahathir was greeted by cries of “reformasi” and “bebas Anwar” (free Anwar) as he made his way to the rostrum. He could sense that this was far from an adoring crowd and he attempted some reverse psychology, saying that a politician has to accept that he cannot be loved by all. He said he knew that some called him “mahafiraun” (great pharoah) and “mahazalim” (tyrant).

He appealed to them to put aside other issues and focus on toppling Najib because without power, their struggle would fail. “After that, if you want to act against me, you can do so,” he said.

He was flanked by Saari and Anwar’s younger brother Rusli Ibrahim whose presence on stage was to signal that Dr. Mahathir was there with the blessings of Anwar. But the Otai Reformis is a seasoned group of people who have seen it all. They were cynical about Dr. Mahathir and his simplistic reasoning failed to wash on them. Besides, they did not trust him and the respect was not there.

There have been too many life-changing experiences between then and now and the emotional scars are still there.

Moreover, said an Otai Reformis politician from Terengganu, the audience was expecting no less than an apology from the former Premier and they had called out for him to “minta maaf” (ask for forgiveness).

When it became clear that he had not come to apologise, they broke out into jeers and heckled him.Dr. Mahathir tried to smile his way through it but there were moments when the mask dropped and he looked shaken.

“It was quite humiliating. I think he cut short his speech, it was over real fast,” said the Terengganu politician. On top of all that, Dr. Mahathir had to sit through a video detailing the Reformasi movement – Anwar addressing a sea of people from the balcony of the national mosque, the infamous black eye, the angry street protests and the controversial trial. It was a political chapter that he would rather forget.

When everyone in the audience raised their fists to cries of “reformasi”, Dr. Mahathir made a half-hearted attempt to do the same but his hand barely reached his chest. The event was quite a farce and some of those present said the organisers had deceived them by allowing Dr. Mahathir to take to the stage when he had no intention of asking for forgiveness.

“There is still a lot of anger. They want him to apologise to Anwar’s family who suffered so much,” said the same Terengganu politician. It is obvious that even the chief personalities like Saari and Rusli were not bowled over by Dr. Mahathir because they could be seen trying to control their amusement at the height of the jeering.

The gathering then passed several resolutions, one of which stated that “this convention is not a forum to seek Dr. Mahathir’s views on the reform agenda”. It was as good as a disavowal of Dr. Mahathir.

Dr. Mahathir ought to have an easier time in Padang Rengas. Hordes of his supporters will probably make a beeline to the debate to lend moral backing. This is traditional UMNO territory and the audience will not be anything like what happened at the Otai Reformis event. But this is also Nazri’s home ground. He is the most senior minister after Najib and has served under three Prime Ministers.

People often forget Nazri’s political seniority because of his contemporary image, from the way he dresses to the way he addresses issues. For instance, he sometimes turns up for official events in a sports shirt worn rapper-style, with the collar turned up. Nazri understands the local sentiments and is more than familiar with Dr, Mahathir and his lines of attack.

Two big personalities known for their wit and laser tongues, their fighting spirit and dislike for each other – it should be pure entertainment even if it yields little of consequence.

18 thoughts on “The Padang Rengas Debate

  1. Y’know I never understood why some folks want Octo to apologize. It’s not as if we had guns to our heads when we voted his corrupt coalition in and it is not as if the Oppo had guns to their heads when they embraced him as one of their own.

    Without Octo the Oppo would be running around screaming at the next UMNO chum thrown in the water. Thee Komtar Potentate is a belligerent autocrat with none of the charisma or intelligence to pilot the ship and the numerous Malay powerbrokers are mired in the usual Bumi politics to even get a clue as to how to navigate out of this mess.

    Octo only knows how to attack and if the strategy is replace Jibros then you can’t get much better than that but if the strategy is to Save Malaysia and all that implies that we are truly fucked.

    This rumble in the….wherever…is just a horse and pony show , engineered by Octo as part of the deeper stratagem to divide or at least further the perception that the Peninsular Malay vote is divided.

    It’s like two thieves arguing who stole less when they both know that in their profession, the one with the most wins.
    I agree, Conrad, we are fucked and want be fucked even more. Leaders on both sides of the divide are lucky to have suckers like us who want to be fucked.–Din Merican

  2. Ha ha grasshopper challenging the master. Don’t discount Che Det, despite his selective memory, he may give Nazri several black eyes. Che Det knows a lot about Nazri that he has not revealed, not just the official but the personal skeletons in Nazri’s closet. Nazri on the other hand can only harp on Che Det’s past mistakes which are already public knowledge.
    Don’t blink Nazri.

  3. He does not want to see his legacy completely destroyed by the present gang of thieves ?

    Biggest errors of his political career – passing on power to two people he thought he could control ? The Hainanese-looking guy (did not reckon on the SIL) and the bugis warrior (did not reckon on Big Hair).

  4. The debate will be held at the MRSM hall in Kuala Kangsar and not in Padang Rengas as reported. Hope to make to this much-publicised verbal joust between two Umno pundits but a wedding invitation comes in my way.

  5. FORGET THIS DEBATE which Mahathir will win because Nazri has to slam-dunk Mahathir to win given his youth and advantage.

    SOMETHING IS VERY VERY WRONG WITH PERMATA..THERE IS TOO WAY WAY TOO MUCH AVOIDING FULL DISCLOSURE OF FINANCIALS.. Its very likely Rosmah credit card for all her indulgences…Its sensational stuff that could blow Najib and UMNO out of the water..

  6. A nascent BERSATU needs an event to ingrain itself into the political consciousness of Malaysians, particularly the Malays, and what better than to debate on a topic, (by none other than the Tun himself, whoever his opposing debater might be), which will sure to get everyone’s attention.

    Also the 1MDB issue is kept alive which is in danger of dying a natural death what with all the other distractions, engineered or other wise.

  7. The future of the hard working decent ordinary people lies in a system that is efficient, effective and fair to all its citizens and taxpayers, not popular seeking and self-serving career politicians.

    There is a strong culture of secrecy and cover up in the present system……they are friends of the corrupt.

    Once the ordinary people are empowered, independent and politically matured, most self-serving career politicians’ contribution to the country’s present situation are a disgrace.

  8. During one ge there was another proxy debate between rafizi and khairy. They had to fly to london to hold it. In this today version its aging warrior dr m and his former protege and now nemisis nazri. Its not televised and they have chosen a homeground of nazri due to some old gaultlet.

    What does this say about state of debate and shaping public polity? In world of democracry where politicos are expected to face audience, live tv and shape thinking openly, cheered and jeered malaysia is stuck in a twlight zone. Its leaders afraid of facing any open challenge and healty dialogue to drive their ideas.

    Dr M a old septnarian to offer debate at twilight of his years draws a minor admiration. He really does not have to do half the things he is doing. At 90 or even at 80 he could taken one of those quite cut the ribbon with a occasional viled comment laced at broadlevel language.

    Yes its a cat brawl at the end of town where “microphone may cease to work suddenly”

  9. It’s certainly not a match between equals. Nazri is only a proxy for Najib. He throws punches like a crazed bull. Don’t underestimate Mahathir. He may be slow but he still can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee like the great Ali. His strategy would be to corner Nazri into exposing Najib’s weaknesses. And we all know there are plenty for him to expose. Nazri, on the other hand, would have nothing much to offer except wild punches.

  10. I don’t think the Pafang Rengas debate will happen. Najib is scared that Nazri may unintentionally ‘spill the beans’ and there goes all of Najib’s last carefully kept secrets about 1MDB!

  11. This debate is a side-show created for Distraction from the Real Issues facing the country.

    There is no “real enemy” in politics even for those landed with a “black eye”.

    The REAL ENEMY of the people and the country is the Deeply Entrenched Culture of MACCP,* largely the Legacy of Mahathir, Umno Baru and its leaders that has been Disenabling or Disrupting the Entire Delivery System. This has mainly brought the country to the present dire state of affairs, leaving the country Without Quality​ leaders as Successors.

    These are the people’s crucial issues that need to be openly debated because every Scandal and for those involved can be Traced back to at least One or More Elements in the Culture of MACCP —to find viable solution in order to address the disastrous culutre in saving Malaysia, effectively and quickly, from heading towards a failed state.
    The country and the Rakyat are real losers.

    *MACCP= Money politic, Abuse of power, Corruption, Cronysm and Puppetry.

  12. “Street fighter”, “bugis warrior” etc.

    What Malaysians need are peace-makers, ethnic harmony promoters, people who will help the economy to grow.

    P.S. Maybe UMNO Baru has let the cat out of the bag, that it is
    becoming a right-wing political group with a lot of thugs and thieves ?

  13. Nazri, in an idiotic moment of bravado, has put him and Najib in deeper shit.

    If the debate goes as planned, Najib, who had to get the IGP’s help to back out of the “Nothing to Hide” fiasco, is cooked.

    If it is cancelled, for whatever reason other then one of them is in hospital for a genuine serious illness, or some mishap, Nazri will have to hide his face. I mean fearing to debate a 90 year old man after all the big talk?

  14. That is why the Boy Scout and Girl GuideMovement is so important. You have to earn your Badge of Honour for each task completed to understand its value.

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