Why a handover date is important

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH

COMMENT Ever since the emergence of the sex video episode, we have been bombarded with lingering questions over the prime minister’s post and when Dr Mahathir Mohamad will pass the baton to his successor.

Aren’t we Malaysians, or rather our politicians, very queer folks at times? What has a secretly filmed video, featuring two men in homosexual acts, got to do with the prime minister’s post?

An old pal in Canada, understandably bewildered about Malaysian politics, actually posed this question. I was lost for an answer, but managed to wryly respond, “In Malaysia Baru, this is the new version of Malaysia Boleh and we are living in very strange times.”

I believe many Malaysians must also be having a difficult time when queried by friends overseas on what the heck is happening in Malaysia today.

How on earth do we explain a sex video, not featuring our prime minister, and its connection to the prime minister’s post? A Hongkie will have a better time with ready answers in explaining the protests taking place in Hong Kong.

Over the past two months or so, the debate over the issue has been raging, so much so that I find it disturbing. The prime minister’s post seems to have turned into an obsession among some of our politicians.

The khat and Lynas controversies, which are more deserving of healthy debate, pale in comparison with our obsession over when Mahathir should step down as prime minister.

If our political leaders choose to detach themselves completely from the world and start to live in their obsessions, then we have to say good luck to Malaysia.

Not surprisingly, those who have weighed in on the matter are ministers and politicians with vested interests.

So far, we have heard from four ministers, two each from PKR and Bersatu. These are people who are probably dependent on Mahathir’s patronage to survive politically. It is unnecessary for me to name them or detail why. Without Mahathir, these foursome would probably be counting their days in the cabinet.

Some acolytes of a PKR minister have also parroted their beleaguered leader’s call for Mahathir to serve out a five-year term, for reasons we know only too well.

Many of us would consider PAS’ declaration of support for Mahathir one of disruptive politics. Umno stalwart Mohd Nazri Aziz’s (above) call on his party leaders to mind their own business and not interfere in matters regarding the prime minister’s post is most sensible, never mind what we think of the former minister.

Not surprising, however, is the silence from leaders of DAP and Amanah, the other two coalition partners of Pakatan Harapan. It’s not because none of their leaders are interested in becoming prime minister, but they are probably aware that they could only salivate for and smell the coveted crown in Putrajaya from afar, at least at this stage of the game.

They are certainly smarter and very much aware of the adage that “An intelligent man speaks when he has to say something, but a wise man speaks when he has something to say.”

Why do I feel that a handover date of the premier’s post is important? Let me say this as a non-partisan, non-interested party. Whoever is prime minister makes no difference to me.

To many, the more Mahathir procrastinates on the issue, the more mistrust the people have in him. From “I need more time to fix the economy” to “in two or three years’ time” is actually saying nothing.

Mahathir has to set a definite date like he did when he passed the baton to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (below) in 2003. The transition was smooth and everyone was happy.

I only have sympathy for our prime minister when people start describing him as the sly old fox up to his old tricks again, or the same old dictator or the evil doctor. There are those who have never forgiven Mahathir for his past abuses and wrongdoings.

The prime minister’s reason for needing more time to fix the economy means nothing to me. A nation will always have to face all sorts of problems and assuming the current economic ailment faced by the nation is fixed, there will always be the next one.

Mahathir mentioned “in two or three years” only this past week. Three years from now means 2022. Does Mahathir seriously think that it is fair to hand over to Anwar Ibrahim in 2022, leaving his successor only a year to face GE15?

Pakatan Harapan needs time to prepare for a transition and the successor also could do with more time for some soul-searching, notably in selecting the best cabinet. He needs men and women of calibre and integrity and those he is able to work with.

We are caught in a political conundrum never experienced before in the country. GE14 was a people’s victory, but that historic episode brought along this peculiar quagmire we are in today.

For the first time, we have a deputy prime minister who is not interested to be prime minister. We have a prime minister-designate who is neither here nor there as he is not even a cabinet member.

Worse, we now have a younger, ambitious minister who has been awkwardly brought to his knees by a sex video.

And who do people blame for all the shenanigans? Mahathir!

That is not fair to Mahathir, but it cannot be denied that there is growing mistrust against the prime minister.

The last straw was probably the recent ‘secret’ meeting Mahathir had with opposition leaders from Umno, PAS and GPS. That this meeting was not known nor had the approval of the Harapan presidential council has also caused much disdain for Mahathir from within.

What some are saying now is that all Mahathir is interested in today is to pave the way for his son, Mukhriz’s ascension to the premiership before he finally steps down.

Disappointed and angry people are bound to create rumours but it would do the nation and people a lot of good if Mahathir could help curb rumour-mongering by announcing a definite handover date to Anwar.

It is important to remember that when Malaysians voted on May 9 last year, they not only voted for Mahathir to be prime minister for two years, they also voted for Anwar to succeed Mahathir as prime minister.

This is the people’s verdict. To politicians in Harapan who are bent on reneging on the people’s decision, just be forewarned not to play with the people’s mandate.

I would love Mahathir to be prime minister until he is 100 years old. But I know that is unlikely to happen.

Therefore, I hope Mahathir will stop his procrastination and set a promised date in order to give Malaysians a sense of direction, as well as ensure political stability.

Malaysians will surely wish to remember and cherish Mahathir, not for his chequered past, but as the nation’s foremost statesman.

  • Malaysiakini

FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at sirsiah@gmail.com

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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