Dr Mahathir Mohamad has announced that his new Gerakan Tanah Air (People’s Homeland Movement or GTA) will submit its application for registration with the Registrar of Societies.
GTA, which aims to empower the Malays and ensure that “the rights of the Malays are taken care of”, comprises four political parties, NGOs, academicians and individuals – all Malay or Muslim-based.
Watching the media conference of GTA’s 4 August launch live over Facebook triggered a range of emotions in me: bewilderment, amusement, disappointment and anger.
It reminded me of a book I’d read many years ago – and which I’d asked my students at the Mara University of Technology (UiTM) to read as well, much to the chagrin of some people there.
The book, Paradoxes of Mahathirism by Khoo Boo Teik, is a good read for those who want to go beyond a simplistic labelling and straitjacketing of Mahathir’s political and ideological persona, as well as Mahathir the man.
Putting aside any discussion on the viability, necessity and desirability of Mahathir’s latest political strategy, idea, initiative, tactic or ploy – the labelling would depend on where one is on the ‘Mahathir spectrum’ – his latest move demonstrates and amplifies only too well the contradictions and inconsistencies of Mahathirism.
The conceptual perspective presented is in part based on a distortion of some facts and the manipulation of the country’s historical narrative.
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During the launch, to my amusement, Mahathir said that only Malays are invited to join this ‘movement’, which he said is not a political party as there are too many political parties that only divide the people. In the same breath, he declared that the GTA is not racist.
However, GTA aims to contest against Umno and topple the existing Umno-led government in the coming general election. A rose by any other name…?
Are only Malays affected and concerned about corrupt politicians in government? Is the National Indian Muslim Alliance Party (Iman), one of the GTA coalition members, made up of Malays?
While Mahathir declared GTA was not racist, it is bewildering and disappointing to see how the man who promoted Vision 2020 and “bangsa Malaysia” persists in seeing events and situations through racial lenses. He continues to pit Malays against non-Malays by resorting to racial stereotyping and couching his ‘analysis’ of the socioeconomic situation in Malaysia in racially tinged language. In the process, he misdiagnoses the root causes of the economic malaise of the Malays.
He claimed GTA is for people who loved their “tanah air” (land and sea, ie homeland). He said only the Malays have “tanah” and “air”; others – like people in England, Scotland and Ireland – just have “tanah”.
I found that amusing! Don’t the Indonesians also use tanah air in their national anthem? Don’t the minorities – like me – love Malaysia, our motherland, our tanah air?
Is this what Khoo Boo Teik means when he says that these contradictions and paradoxes can be seen as “a dialectical interplay between a politician’s ideas and the milieu within which they find their expression”?
Or are they simply a desperate attempt by a delusional Mahathir, yet again, to remain relevant in Malaysian politics?