Mahathir’s Mission Impossible: Can he pull it off?

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Photograph: Malaysiakini

The ongoing spat and rift which may lead to a new Umno president – and new prime minister – from Barisan Nasional being appointed will not solve the root problem we face, warns Farha Yusof.

Many Malaysians would be aware of current developments in the Malaysian political scene. Issues such as the 1MDB fiasco, the crackdown on opposition leaders and the GST have received wide coverage in the media, including social media.

The 1MDB scandal has been the most prominent, even causing a rift in the leadership of the ruling party. It is not wrong to say that the 1MDB saga is a one-of-a-kind scandal.

The uproar over 1MDB comes not only from opposition MPs; the likes of Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Daim Zainuddin have also been robustly attacking the Najib Razak administration.

The exposes on 1MDB over the past year or so were carried out by opposition MPs with Rafizi Ramli and Tony Pua leading the charge. Still, certain quarters wish not to recognise their efforts at all. But when Mahathir says the same thing that the opposition MPs have been saying for months, it is accepted whole-heartedly! How biased can people be?

With due respect, Mahathir is a great leader in many ways: he has been a strong voice on foreign policy issues, and he has brought modernisation to our beloved Malaysia.

But during Mahathir’s premiership, Malaysia went through a judicial crisis from which we have not yet fully recovered. The nation also experienced an erosion in the system of checks and balances, serious curbs on freedom of speech, and the undermining of the doctrine of separation of powers.

READ MORE:  1MDB scandal: 'One of the greatest financial frauds in history'

Let’s not forget how Mahathir, when he was Home Minister, banned The Star, which had been critical of the government. Tunku Abdul Rahman’s column in the daily had provided the sharpest criticism of Mahathir’s conduct.

What has been going on under the leadership of Najib Razak of course concerns and worries me a lot. But do we Malaysians see the irony of this rift between Mahathir and Najib Razak?

Mahathir is perhaps getting a dose of his medicine. As prime minister for 22 years, he had almost absolute control over all government institutions. Now, he is battling the mighty power which he was responsible for creating during his premiership.

There are some who say that during Mahathir’s tenure, despite the mega projects, corruption was not as bad as the 1MDB scandal today. There is some truth behind that statement: at least Malaysians did manage to see KLCC and Putrajaya materialise. In contrast, 1MDB’s accumulated debt of RM42bn and its investments have not produced any tangible physical return that Malaysians can witness.

But, be fair – what is your definition of corruption and mismanagement of public funds? The RM42bn of 1MDB only?

In truth, those responsible for any instance of mismanagement and corruption involving even a few thousand ringgit of public funds must be reprimanded. It is no secret that corrupt practices, cronyism, and inflated contracts were rampant even during Mahathir’s tenure.

The ongoing spat and rift which may lead to a new Umno president – and new prime minister – from Barisan Nasional being appointed will not solve the root problem in our beloved country, however.

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The way forward is to move away from Mahathirism. In recent weeks, there have been calls to expose the accumulated wealth of Mahathir and his family. As much as I support calls to expose the wrongdoings and leakages of 1MDB and the Najib Razak administration, I also fully endorse the demand for Mahathir to be investigated for any fault he may have done.

Justice needs to be done for the majority of Malaysians, not for wealthy individuals only.

Malaysia’s working class today are being sandwiched. Reforms must take place. Reforms to government institutions and the economy must be on top of the list.

I am not writing about Mahathir’s chances or his calculations in his moves against the current prime minister. To steer this nation forward, we need to move away from Mahathirism.

Malaysians deserve better than what is occurring today.

Farha Yusof, who is currently pursuing his tertiary education, is involved in social activism in the Klang Valley. 

Farha participated in a recent Aliran Young Writers Workshop on Federalism and Decentralisation, supported by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. “The workshop has taught me how to express the concerns of the public and students through better and more effective writing,” he says.

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