By Chia Yong Tai
Although thoughts in this article have sprung out after reading Professor Tajuddin's article in Sin Chew, this article is not a reply to him. I have no wish to engage in a polemic with him, as I'm a fan of his writings and ideas. But this time I beg to differ.
I understand that at this historical juncture, all concerned citizens of this land are at a loss because of the political quagmire we are in.
We were euphoric to be able to get rid of the kleptocracy of Umno/BN after 61 years. We were hopeful of building a New Malaysia brought about by the victory of Harapan in GE14. But after 22 months of rule led by Mahathir, this dream had turned into a nightmare.
The Sheraton coup succeeded in bringing down the Pakatan Harapan government, to be replaced by a precarious coalition which runs the high risk of bringing back to power the kleptocrats; which openly declared that it is a Malay-Muslim government; whose cabinet is made up of MPs whose appointments were rewards for betraying their own parties and the people's mandate. Furthermore, pro-government MPs were given posts in GLCs to enrich themselves.
Indeed, the rakyat have very good reasons to be worried.
This concern is reflected in the PH-Plus move to install Mahathir as the ninth PM for six months after which the helm will be passed on to Anwar.
On the surface, in order to stop the return of Najib-Umno and PAS (Muafakat), it is logical for the PH Opposition to work with Mahathir and get back power.
But, have we examined the pitfalls of this strategy? Is it good for PH in the long run politically and for reforms?
It appears that the move is more of political expediency than for long-term interests. Hence it is difficult to avoid the public speculating that some in DAP and Amanah are too eager to return to power.
Let's examine the stalemate presented before us: Without Anwar/PKR's support Tun Dr Mahathir (TDM) can't form the government; and without Mahathir/Warisan/GPS's support, Anwar can't form the government. One would have to give in to the other or the plan will flop.
That's why we have people like Prof Tajuddin criticizing Anwar for not willing to "sacrifice" to let Mahathir have a go.
Well, I would ask, why doesn't Prof Tajuddin ask Mahathir to "sacrifice" and let Anwar have a go?
I personally think that Prof Tajuddin has been unfair to Anwar, because ultimately this boils down to the question: What's the sacrifice for? Is it to fulfill TDM's personal ambition? Is it for stopping the return of Najib and Muafakat? Is it for PH-Plus to return to power? Is it for the Reformasi agenda to build a multiracial New Malaysia?
I think it's only the last objective, the Reformasi agenda, which I believe is dear to Prof Tajuddin too that would justify Anwar's "sacrifice". That's exactly Anwar's position when he explained why he didn't accept the PH-Plus proposal. Hence I support Anwar's position.
Had Anwar taken up the offer, it would reinforce the accusation that he is PM-crazy. If TDM ditched him after six months, he would look like a fool and he would lose his credibility and support, momentum and most important of all, the moral authority to lead the Reformasi movement.
Furthermore, the only "plus" PH-plus got is a déjà vu -- the prolongation of the agony and uncertainty of PH in a government under Mahathir.
First of all, there are fundamental differences between working with TDM before GE14 and working with him now, especially when we have the benefit of hindsight.
We all know the political circumstances surrounding the GE14 that led Pakatan Harapan to work with Mahathir to overthrow Najib and Umno. TDM was our hero and there was no regret working with him. But now, the situation has changed:
1. PH has lost power and has been very much weakened as a coalition -- PKR is split; uncertainty looms over DAP and Amanah; and most importantly PH supporters are disappointed with their leaders, disillusioned with their performance and despaired on our country's politics and future. People are weary of what they perceive as politics of self-interests (expediency).
2. PH supporters, especially the Chinese in DAP, are totally dejected with Mahathir.
It is amazing how DAP could justify supporting Mahathir. Are DAP's political goals so narrow, so short-term? The maneuvers to oust Muhyiddin will end up in a snap election that PH is not prepared for, even mentally. I find the move more of a political expedient that would backfire.
3. The protagonist of this plan is TDM whose reputation or standing among ALL Malaysians has dropped to the bottom of the valley!
He has betrayed PH by not respecting the pact about Anwar taking over. As a result of his obsession to undermine Anwar that he fumbled in his strategy (resigned) and destroyed the PH government.
He even dared to think that he could set up a "National Unity" government under his dictatorship with the support of Anwar and company (and most likely without Anwar!). How politically naive could he get?
Yet, he is not repentant and continues to blame others. He has shown to every Malaysian that he is more concerned with his own agenda rather than wanting to "save Malaysia".
It is very clear what Mahathir's agenda are:
i. Mahathir wants to perpetuate the Malay agenda, read "Ketuanan Melayu". Mahathir doesn't believe in the multi-ethnicity of Malaysia. That's one of the reasons why Mahathir will never accept Anwar.
To TDM, it is an ideological commitment -- he has to protect the interests of his own clique. Therefore, one cannot rule out the possibility that after becoming PM, he would maneuver once again to work with certain elements in Umno and install Hishamuddin Hussein, his favorite, as the next PM. This is part of the Malay agenda of this group of Malay elites.
ii. Mahathir doesn't believe in the reforms of PH. That's another reason why Anwar, who is committed to reforms, will be stopped by Mahathir.
It is clear to everyone that as a PM of PH, TDM stalled almost all the important reforms promised in the manifesto. He would never allow the New Malaysia narrative to take root.
Iii. Besides all these, he has his personal/family agenda to protect. He dreads to see the day when Najib and company return to power.
Najib has already started to reopen their old feud by releasing his sons' assets. Mahathir doesn't feel safe with Anwar, either. That's why TDM is bent on regaining power by all means.
iv. Therefore, his betrayal is not only personal (against Anwar) but also an ideological one, that is to advance the Malay agenda at the expense of reforms in the interests of all Malaysians.
Malaysians have to be vigilant. We can't give him the benefit of doubt anymore. Therefore, our counter actions must be ideological too to protect people's interests.
The time has come for us to put the "Mahathir era" behind us because he has consistently shown himself to be untrustworthy. He has lost power that he fought so hard for and won at such an advanced age, only to "give it away" due to his own delusion of not letting Anwar take over as promised. Sadly, he has to pay for it. Ancient wisdom says that Heaven has its own way of settling matters.
To date, TDM has lost all his political base. Surprisingly, only PH leaders are entertaining him. This is because they are still obsessed with regaining power with the inclusion of Mahathir, while the people have discarded him. PH has suffered enough under TDM. Enough is enough!
Furthermore, the chance of regaining power is slim. DAP and Amanah leaders should not indulge further in this game which is not feasible for the simple reason that PH-Plus would not be given the chance to form the government, especially if PKR disagrees. Further indulgence is suicidal. PH will break up beyond recognition.
At the time of writing, news of making Shafie Apdal the PM with Anwar and Muhkriz, son of Dr. M, as deputies came as a shock.
The fact that Mat Sabu and Lim Guan Eng would consider this an option is unthinkable. It will cause further split among the three component parties. It is an open provocation to PKR.
Why such an obsession? What is the intention of the person who proposed this? PH leaders are getting insensitive to people's feelings.
After the collapse of the PH government, people were downhearted but when Mat Sabu told them PH was willing to fight as an opposition, a role they were used to, their spirit was lifted. The rakyat are not afraid; all they need are brave leaders to show the way.
It is better to accept the reality of Muhyiddin being in power and work from there to face the coming general elections than to engage in a futile and divisive exercise.
PH must choose their friends correctly. They must learn from their past mistakes, get rid of the delusion of power especially with Mahathir as the PM and face the reality squarely.
It is immaterial who would become the PM; win the election first. Anwar has taken the decision to fight on; the other PH leaders must back him.
Maybe the chance will come. It might be easier to break Muhyiddin than to break Najib -- this time without Mahathir. And PH must have faith in the rakyat who would choose the parties with principle, that would look after their interests.
If it is unsuccessful this time, the younger leaders will make it the next time. That's why it's important to scout for new leaders now and keep the Reformasi agenda intact.