Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Lessons from Melaka and Mahathir

Pakatan Harapan should have learnt its lesson by now on accepting traitors.

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As Pakatan Harapan (PH) licks its wounds after its staggering defeat in the Melaka election, one thing is fresh in everyone’s minds: the mind-boggling decision to accept traitors in Anwar Ibrahim’s decision to bring in the “Melaka 4” as part of PH’s election campaign.

The fact that the only reason there was an election during the dangerous pandemic was because of these four irresponsible politicians should have been reason alone for Anwar and PH to unanimously reject their inclusion in the coalition, no matter how politically advantageous it may have been.

PH should have learnt its lesson on accepting traitors – after all, it had its experiences with the matter when it was in power. Looking back, PH should have vehemently opposed the entry of Umno leaders into Bersatu at the time when Dr Mahathir Mohamad was prime minister.

But of course, the PH era should have given it more than enough lessons on betrayal, especially when it comes to Mahathir.

In order to sustain Mahathir’s political longevity, it was also necessary for Umno, from which he was sacked or which he left more than once, to embed such an ecosystem within the lifeblood of the party. Whether through Umno’s treasury, Umno-linked holding companies, or individual proxies, the party navigated the Malaysian corporate scene to be in line with the demands of nationalist leaders such as Mahathir himself.

It was such a structure that allowed Mahathir and Daim to further spread their influence in their political narratives. For example, Kadir Jasin was a proxy to manage the New Straits Times Group, which then included a mainstream TV channel, TV3. Meanwhile, Murad also claimed that MRCB was given the approval to privatise Lumut Independent Power Plan. Interestingly, the authority responsible for approving the project was the Economic Planning Unit, which at that time was under the Prime Minister’s Office (whereby Mahathir himself was the prime minister).

Mahathir did more damage to the country than any other prime minister. It was his way or the highway. He was well known for ethnic extremism.

But more importantly, it was primarily Mahathir who made the Sheraton Move possible. He might not have been involved in the actual process, but his invisible hand was there.

He reduced the PH parties to nothing in his administration. It was he who encouraged the racist forces to undermine PH.

What mattered to him was the well-being of the Malays, but the pro-Malay policies ironically ended up benefiting a small sector of the Malays, particularly Umno leaders and their families.

Not that his children came up the hard way – they, too, were beneficiaries of the system. Whether the poor and ordinary Malays benefitted or not is a different story.

But the constant narrative of the need to catch up with the non-Malays, particularly the Chinese, brought up racial and religious tensions. These racial and religious tensions ensured the accumulation process of the Umno leaders, their families and cronies unimpeded.

This will be his legacy for Malaysia, and it is an unfortunate one.

Whatever was said and done, DAP did the right thing to oppose the inclusion of the four assemblymen who ditched the Melaka government. The state election would not have been called in the absence of the withdrawal of their support.

The acceptance of even one of the four dissidents would have contradicted the need for a national anti-hopping law at the federal level, an outcome of the memorandum of understanding on transformation and political stability.

Only time will tell if PH can learn the lessons from its past, lest we see another round of disappointing political moves that masquerade as calls for reform.

In the end, it might even lead to another Mahathir.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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