Former PM, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a shrewd and wily, politician.
For 22 years, he ruled Malaysia with an iron fist. He knows the Malays, inside out. He is aware of their character flaws and strong points. He knows them better than they know themselves.
He may have left office, but the young, many of whom know very little about his tenure, revere him.
They gaze adoringly at the Petronas Twin Towers and wax lyrical about him.
The kampung folk are grateful that they can afford their kapchais or their Protons. When Mahathir goes on a walkabout, in a village, people rush up to him, to kiss his hand.
If he is in a restaurant in London, they interrupt his makan, to take selfies with him. Wherever he goes, people clamour to shake his hand. That is not to say, that he does not have his detractors.
Malaysia has been hit by several scandals. We are more polarised, than a few decades ago. Religious intolerance is driving a wedge between the various communities in Malaysia.
Planes dropped out of the skies. In the eastern seaboard, Islamic militants allegedly try to kidnap tourists and ordinary Malaysians for ransom. The roads are clogged with vehicles, because our public transport system is decrepit.
Corruption scandals like 1MDB are like a nagging toothache. There are many allegations, apparently that officials in government service are involved in cross-border drug and human trafficking.
Amidst this mayhem, in steps the valiant Mahathir, with his Save Malaysia campaign and his Citizen’s Declaration. He denies that his aim, is to save his legacy or to relaunch the political career of his son, Datuk Mukhriz, who was spectacularly ejected from his post as Kedah MB.
Mahathir surprised many by making an appearance in court, when his former deputy, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, was present, and shook hands with the man, who for one and a half decades, Mahathir conspired to lock away.
Was the handshake genuine? Does this augur well, for Malaysians? Is this a sign that all is forgiven and that we can regain our trust in Mahathir and allow him to lead the charge to restore Malaysia to its former glory? We can’t depend on the Opposition because they appear to be fractured, and prone to petty infighting.
In a speech, in Seremban in mid-September, Mahathir, finally declared, that he was prepared to oust the PM and Umno-Baru. This was the first time he had mentioned the party. So, is his desire for Malaysia to be saved, genuine? Or did he mention Umno-Baru because this is what the people want?
All of us were in some way affected by Mahathir’s politics and policies. The bumiputraism. The cronyism. The nepotism. Only a select few benefited from the AP.
The businessman, whose ailing company was bailed-out with government funds, benefited from Mahathir’s largesse. As did the businessman, who won the contract to collect tolls on the highways. Twenty years later, these “legitimate businessmen” continues to levy tolls from road-users, like the leeches which feast on our blood.
Whilst some of the rakyat are willing to entertain Mahathir’s bid to save Malaysia, it does not mean that the rest of us, who refuse to have anything to do with him, are ingrates.
Perhaps, we should ask the people whose lives were blighted, whose careers received a premature end, whose promotions were cast aside to make way for Mahathir’s “Yes” men – men like Shafee Yahaya, who 18-years-ago, the Director-General of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA).
In April 2008. Mahathir had attempted to tarnish Shafee’s character in a letter sent to ‘The Sun’ newspaper. Kalsom Taib, Shafee’s wife was incensed by Mahathir’s attack on her husband, that she wrote a book called ‘The Shafee Yahaya Story, Estate Boy to ACA Chief’, to relate Shafee’s side of the story.
Perhaps, we could ask the family of the former Lord President Tun Salleh Abas, who was removed from office in 1988, That was the year that democracy died and the judiciary ceased to be answerable to parliament. Instead they became answerable to the office of the Prime Minister.
The wounds which Mahathir inflicted, are still suppurating today.