Friday, May 23, 2008
Mahathir:Cut The Nose To Spite The Face
If the saying 'pride goes before a fall' befitting anybody it would be former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.A man befuddled with so much rage and hatred against his hand-picked successor Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, he is prepared to kill off his legacy just to get rid of Badawi by whatever means possible.
Why would an octogenarian like him, retired from the highest office and one who has transformed the country from a tropical backwater to a modern and successful nation be bothered by the dismal performance of his successor and the party and goes to such great length to tire himself and become a thorn in the flesh to the Prime Minister and the nation?
Mahathir has reached a point of despair and desperation and did the unthinkable, resigned his life membership from his party. The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mohammed Nazri Aziz called it a case of blackmail. The only sensible conclusion to his charade of caring for bangsa, ugama dan negara.
Mahathir might have 'cut his nose to spite his face' by resigning from his party and called on party members to leave the party.His tactical move to split the party to get rid of Abdullah by asking members to leave the party and only return after Abdullah's departure as party president and prime minister is damnable.He didn't get what he wanted.It didn't trigger off a mass exodus.It has the opposite effect, most senior party leaders closed ranks to show their support and loyalty to Abdullah.
Mahathir of all people should know from his twenty two years experience at the helm the kind of political patronage practised in UMNO and the invisible whip in the hand of the Prime Minister.He had used it more vigorously than any other prime ministers before him to keep his boys in line.So far there has been little indication of a mass exodus.
It certainly makes no sense to 'kill the goose that lays the golden egg' because of one old man lost legacy and vindictiveness. All of what Mahathir wanted to happen are perilous to the continued existence of UMNO. To do as suggested by him is suicidal for the party. There are predators waiting in the wings.
Mahathir is a man not short of conflicts,controversies and contradictions.He has picked a quarrel and parted ways with almost all of his deputies.
His tussle for the UMNO presidency against Tengku Razaleigh Hamza in 1987 where he won by a slim majority resulted in UMNO being declared an unlawful society by the court and emergence of a splinter party under Razaleigh called Semangat 46 and UMNO Baru under him.Semangat 46 was later dissolved and Razaleigh returned to the fold and to political wilderness.
The court ruling on the illegality of UMNO resulted in the sacking of the Lord President Tun Salleh Abas and a number of judges and the beginning of a dark chapter in the judiciary.Thereafter, the judiciary had been transformed from an independent body to one that is seen as subservient to the executives.
Last year a video tape of a lawyer trying to fix judicial appointments was released by Anwar Ibrahim to the public by posting it on YouTube which shocked the nation and eventually resulted in the setting up of a Royal Commission.The findings and recommendations of the Commission to investigate the six including Mahathir could have triggered off his latest reaction.
Mahathir thinks he has been unfairly treated, the Malays have abandoned him and that he had not broken any law in the course of his duty as Prime Minister although some of his actions in the past are considered as misdeeds by many Malaysians.
In 1987 a growing rift between him and Musa and misunderstanding and disagreement on policies led to the resignation of Musa as deputy prime minister.Many Malaysians called the government at that time the '2M government' which stands for Mahathir and Musa.Mahathir didn't like the version and were visibly annoyed and didn't want Musa in the limelight.Frustrated with Mahathir's autocratic style, Musa left the government and Malaysian politics on a sour note.
His next deputy was the rustic and less ambitious Ghafar Baba who posed no threat to him. Ghafar was eventually challenged by Anwar Ibrahim for the deputy president of the party and deputy prime minister.
In 1993 Anwar took over from Ghafar as Deputy Prime Minister and was also made the Minister of Finance. Anwar was seen as the blue-eyed boy of Mahathir and his meteoric rise to the top, overtaking other more senior party stalwarts, was not without the blessings of Mahathir.
The firebrand Anwar would soon become a cause for concern for Mahathir.Before he knew it, Anwar was already getting very popular with the rank and file and the Malay grassroots.Anwar's oratory skill and charisma attracted the young Turks in the party, a significant force to be reckon with and substantial political clout to make changes in the leadership.Talks had it, through the grapevine, that Anwar would challenge him at the next UMNO elections, which was vehemently denied by Anwar.From a protege Anwar had suddenly become an adversary and a threat to his position.
A mysterious book made its appearance at the UMNO General Assembly titled"50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Tidak Boleh Jadi PM "(50 Reasons Why Anwar Should Not Be Prime Minister).The slanderous books were found inserted in the dockets of some delegates without their knowledge.Finally on 2 Sept 1998 Mahathir dropped the bombshell, asked Anwar to resign which Anwar refused.At about 7 p.m the same day Anwar received his letter of dismissal.Chain of events led to Anwar arrest on charges of corruption and sexual misconduct and was incarcerated for a few years but was later released from prison under Badawi's administration.
Anwar claimed they were trumped up charges brought about by Mahathir and tried under a judiciary subservient to him. Other than the abandonment of the crooked bridge, releasing Anwar from prison was another sore point he had with Badawi.
Now back to the present crisis with Abdullah Badawi.Why did Mahathir chose Abdullah as his successor and not Najib? Although he said he favours Najib over Abdullah but chose Abdullah because of age and seniority he has not been completely honest about what he said. When he said he actually wanted Najib, it was not all that true.At that time he sees Najib as a young man of his own mind and less likely to carry on his legacy and sees in Abdullah a soft, self-deprecating and amenable man whom he thinks he can manipulates and make use of to carry on his legacy.His underestimated Abdullah's capability of being not what he seems to be, as seen with the naked eye.Abdullah is not temperamental and can take criticism in his stride which Mahathir misconstrues as a weakness. It's the idiocy of 'judging the book by its cover'
It is, therefore, more difficult to read Abdullah's true character because he hardly display his temperament and has never been on the defensive or strike back when criticised. His liberalism was also taken as a sign of weakness.One has to admit that today, Malaysians have more freedom to criticise the government than during Mahathir's time, where any form of criticism or dissent, vocal or in writing, is seen as seditious and a threat to national security.During his time the press are more muffled than it is today.
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed may have forgotten what he practised when he was prime minister.His contradictions are just appalling and makes one wonder whether he meant what he says.
He wanted the party to remove the prerequisite for any candidate to contest the president and deputy president posts which was introduced by him to protect his position during his time but have now suddenly found it not expedient anymore.During his time he preached about loyalty to leaders and party. Today he is asking the very same people to abandon the party, be disloyal and get rid of the Prime Minister.
He complains about lack of press freedom, party members not allowed to meet him, no freedom to speak out within the party and the practices of cronyism and nepotism in Abdullah's government.If we care to look back, open our eyes and look at the distant mirage we would see our former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad in it, doing exactly what he says Abdullah is doing.It's a throwback from the past that's haunting him now.
The sad thing is many Malaysians have taken Mahathir's propaganda hook,line and sinker without looking at the situation now and those during his time.
The government today is working under intense pressure as compared to his time when the global economy was bullish and price of crude oil was substantially lower compared to what it is today.Not only the world is facing an energy crisis, it is now facing a serious food crisis. The only reason we have not suffered any catastrophe yet is because the global economy is more resilient now than before. The worse is yet to come and Malaysians should ready themselves to buckle up for a rough ride and live without subsidy mentality.
During his tenure as prime minister the average price of crude oil was less than US$20 per barrel.Today the price has exceeded US$130 per barrel.Prices of most commodities have spiralled up without any end in sight. The price of Thai White Fragrance Grade B Rice last week stood at US$1020 per ton F.O.B.In 2002 the price was below US$300 per ton F.O.B.In the building industry the price of steel bar has increased almost double since three years ago.To continue subsidising these commodities is not an easy task for any government especially when the price increases to very high level where huge amount of subsidies become a drop in the ocean and unappreciated by the consuming public.
It is probably better to increase the salaries of the work force and let the commodities find its own price level.Most Malaysians are more concerned with the amount they take home rather than the amount they have to spend.
If not for Mahathir unrelenting attacks on Abdullah and his government there would be no crisis in UMNO.Mahathir was partly responsible for the BN poor showing at the recent polls.His campaign against Abdullah and the BN was worse than that of the oppositions.He had actually helped the oppositions to garner more votes by his endless bickering at Abdullah and his government.
It is appalling that an ex prime minister is using the race card to rally support of the Malays to his undemocratic attempt to topple a duly elected prime minister and his government. It goes without saying that Mahathir thinks he is indispensible and only he and UMNO should rule this nation and only UMNO is a Malay party that can protect Malay interests.
When it suits him he whacked the Malays, calling them ungrateful, Melayu mudah lupa lah! dan macam-macam lagi, with complete disregard for decorum expected of a man of his stature.When he needs them he has no qualms about using the race card.
What about PAS and PKR, aren't they Malays too?
In many democratic countries the kind of elections results Abdullah got would be considered more than enough to form a stable government but unfortunately Mahathir didn't want to see it that way, he always wanted it "His Way" and his way has nothing to do with the love for this nation, it is for the love of personal glory.
It is also sad that a so-called veteran UMNO politician proposed for the Agong to intervene in the feud between Mahathir and Badawi and joined by some really smart bloggers who think likewise that the Agong should be dragged into this crisis.How could you call somebody like Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Tapa a veteran politician when he has absolutely no idea of the working of the constitution of this nation.The Agong is not a Penghulu or Ketua Kampong to be bothered with a long running personal feud of two politicians.It is not a government in crisis,it is not Badawi in crisis, it is not the Malays in crisis, it is only Mahathir in crisis.The constitution is very clear on who can remove the prime minister.The Agong can only accede to it if there were sufficient votes of no confidence passed in Parliament.
Abdullah may not be the best man for the job, but has he actually done that badly, would there be major change and improvement if Najib were to take over now?