Hornbill Unleashed

February 11, 2014

The Mahathir clan comeback

Filed under: Corruption,Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:00 AM
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Josh Hong

The Lunar New Year celebrations last week ushered in the Year of the Horse, in which former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad may hope for some good fortunes, given that Chinese Malaysians used to refer to him rather fondly as Lao Ma, or Old Horse, based on the Chinese transliteration of his name. (These days, however, the nickname has come to be synonymous with racism and bigotry.)

As he is busy attending open houses across the country, it is quite certain that, his mind sharp as ever, the ex-premier has not lost sight of the political changes on the ground. We must not forget that the Pakatan-administered state of Perak fell to Umno exactly five years ago through treachery and conspiracy as, rather inauspiciously, many were lulled into a false sense of security during the Lunar New Year break.

It is also worth reminding that the Perak coup happened as the hawks in Umno – edged on by Mahahthir and tacitly supported by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (left) – had been putting pressure on PM Najib Abdul Razak to prove his worth as successor to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The short-lived Pakatan rule in the Silver State is now history, but the painful lesson must not be forgotten.

Fast forward to 2014, it is increasingly clear that Najib’s hold on power is being weakened by forces beyond his control. Following Kedah MB Mukhriz Mahathir’s failure to make it to the Umno top leadership, Mahathir’s wrath can barely be concealed.

To pre-empt Mahathir and also to consolidate his position, it is only natural that Najib has been seeking to exploit the rifts within PKR, especially between Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim and the party’s warlord Azmin Ali.

Meanwhile, radical groups such as Perkasa and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) are turning each and every public issue into a racial or religious dispute in an attempt to heighten tensions, hoping also that the rising crescendo will eventually warrant a rule by decree.

Mahathir was instrumental in the downfall of Tunku Abdul Rahman nearly 45 years ago, and the chances of his striking at Najib can never be ruled out. After 1969, both Penang and Kelantan, run by Gerakan and PAS respectively, went on to join BN, changing the country’s political landscape drastically.

Should Mahathir be successful in engineering another so-called crisis a la 1969, would Penang, Kelantan and Selangor be strong enough to resist the temptation of supping with the devil if their leaderships are not strong and cohesive enough?

A plot or a strategic move?

The latest political twist in Selangor has caught us by surprise. Some say it is a plot to outsmart Abdul Khalid, others see it as a strategic move to rein in Azmin’s faction. The truth is, it is a bit of both, plus a pre-emptive strike at Umno.

Since the Kajang state seat was vacated, I have seen many take great umbrage at opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for dragging the electorate into what is widely perceived as party infighting. The amount of criticism levelled at the entire PKR leadership is no doubt unprecedented, for want of a better word.

But let’s face it: power struggle is a normalcy, rather than an exception in party politics. In this regard, I would say the infighting within Umno is far more serious than Pakatan’s. But because Umno has at its disposal immense resources, the party can keep most grudgingly happy, hence the luxury of not having to resort to the electoral process in resolving the conflicts among the various factions.

While I do not fully agree with a by-election without a cause, I see far greater dangers in Umno exploiting the differences within Pakatan in Selangor for its own gains. Mahathir and his gang are working hard to weaken Najib’s administration by seeking to radicalise our society with the issues of race and religion, thinking that they can control the damage after Najib is gone while Mukhriz is put in a No 2 (or even No 1!) position.

While arousing the fear of the Malays, the Mahathir clan is also using Pakatan leaders’ personal issues to paint the latter in an extremely bad light. We have witnessed this in the utterly discredited Sodomy I & II, and also the virulent attacks on PKR assemblyperson Elizabeth Wong five years ago.

DAP MP Teresa Kok may have been unwise in producing a not-too-funny Lunar New Year video, but the hysterical reactions by some are indicative of the ugliness ahead. The great uncertainties, left unchecked and unaddressed, can eventually become a norm in the contest for public space.

One must not underestimate the impact of a small group of people as such. As Indian anthropologist Arjun Appadurai has rightly observed, where one or more of these forms of social uncertainty come into play, violence can create a macabre of certainty and become a brutal technique about ‘them’ and ‘us’.

So, expect more to come as both sides head to Kajang.

All that Umno needs to do is to successfully create an impression that Pakatan is equally as problematic, so why not opt for the devil you know?

‘Blood is thicker than water’

Through writing, social activist Marina Mahathir helped her father keep the support of the so-called neutral elites (or Bangsar liberals?) back in the late 1990s, and I can see she is employing the same tactic again, albeit far smarter this time. She may have an issue with Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor, and rightly so, but I doubt she would say no to her brother assuming Umno leadership. After all, blood is thicker than water.

And how on earth would a self-styled liberal have chosen the most illiberal prime minister in this country’s history to pen a foreword for her book, ‘In Liberal Doses’?

Until and unless Marina (left) has faced up to the fact that Mahathir is THE patron of Perkasa, I will continue to take her words (and publicity stunts) with a large pinch of salt. Of course, I won’t stop others from blindly worshipping her.

In short, the Mahathir clan is seeking a very formidable comeback with far more dangerous, destructive consequences this time. Ignore the deadly influence of the old man at one’s peril. He is getting old and time is not quite on his side.

Nothing will satisfy him other than having his son securely installed as a future prime minister and his ‘legacy’ safeguarded, and nothing delights him more than seeing his mediocre son emerge victorious and the Anwar-led Pakatan ruined to pieces. Only then would he be laughing all the way to his grave.

I may not go all out to argue for the strategic move by Anwar, but I will not at this time mount a campaign to undermine the opposition either, knowing all the odds staked against them.

Perhaps standing idly by is the best one can do. If you want to save your pride of non-partisanship by going all out against Anwar, go ahead, although I am quite certain history will not be too kind to those who have played some role in resurrecting the ghosts of Mahathirism.


JOSH HONG

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1 Comment »

  1. As long as the righteous Malaysian cannot rein the savages to never cease raising racial,bigotry,supremacy and endless provocations of one single person the nation will never know peace and harmony until madness and destruction take over.

    Comment by youngman — February 11, 2014 @ 7:27 PM | Reply


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