FRANCIS PAUL SIAH
COMMENT | For a moment, I thought Dr Mahathir Mohamad said it in jest.
However, after reading the story a few times, a clearer picture emerged.
The prime minister was serious when he told the Financial Times that “at the moment Mahathir Mohamad remains the only person able to run Malaysia.”
He did qualify his response with a ‘maybe’ in replying to a question from the journalist.
My immediate reaction: even if the line was made in jest, I don’t find any humour in it. It was a statement of very bad taste.
Haven’t we noticed that of late, Dr Mahathir has repeatedly indulged in self-glorification? This latest – ‘the only person able to run Malaysia’ – is possibly one of the worst self-praise statements coming direct from the prime minister’s mouth.
Many, including some in Pakatan Harapan circles, have questioned Dr Mahathir’s recent actions and statements, and they had done so for good, valid reasons.
Despite the repeated salvos against some of his decisions, perceived as dictatorial, or his unwarranted statements, Dr Mahathir remains unperturbed. This is worrying.
If my prime minister thinks that he is the indispensable and undisputed saviour of Malaysia, and that there is no one else capable of running the country except him, I have valid grounds to be concerned.
He is 94 and anything could happen to a man that age any time. Sure, he could outlive many others decades younger than him, me included. Health-wise, Dr Mahathir easily puts many to shame. To his credit, he is blessed with a long life, and we are all happy for him.
But it beats me when someone that age still insists that no other soul is capable of managing the nation except him. A leader’s self-importance could prove disastrous to the political health of a nation. This is cause for concern.
It is unfortunate that Dr Mahathir, even with his wealth of experience and at the tail-end of his long, illustrious political career, still chooses to be blind to the writing on the wall.
What others could clearly see, the prime minister prefers not to, perhaps on the false premise of impaired vision.
Lately, Dr Mahathir also announced that he would not be stepping down next year because “there are many problems I have to fix first”.
That would be going over his two-year interim premiership, perceived to be generally agreed to by Harapan leaders going into GE14.
Perhaps it’s time Dr Mahathir is told that handing over the mantle to Anwar Ibrahim is not his decision to make.
That is the collective decision of the Harapan coalition and from day one, it was clear who will take over as prime minister after Dr Mahathir.
If I were in Harapan, I would not hesitate to state at the Harapan council that Dr Mahathir has no business in choosing his successor, for Anwar Ibrahim (above) has been chosen, even while he (Anwar) was still in Sungai Buloh.
It may be crude or disrespectful, but the grand old man must be told upfront of facts and truths; that he (Mahathir) no longer holds the mandate to decide on his successor is one important truth that must be said right to his face.
There is no need for Dr Mahathir to repeatedly assure that he would pass the baton to Anwar. That assurance is unnecessary, because the eighth prime minister of Malaysia has been decided.
That is no longer Dr Mahathir’s call. That call belongs to Malaysians who voted for Harapan in GE14. The choice of Malaysians must be respected and we don’t need Dr Mahathir to tell us again and again who will succeed him.
I find it quite sickening to hear Dr Mahathir repeating that he is cautious of making “another mistake” when choosing a successor.
Mahathir must realise that this is not 2003 when he was the powerful Umno president and lord and master of Barisan Nasional.
He has to snap out of the self-aggrandizement that he is still as powerful, or as important or respected, as he was 16 years ago.
Today, very few, or none at all, care about him making ‘another mistake’ in choosing a successor. In fact, no one bothers to pay attention to such stale mumbling from the grand old man.
If it is to be a mistake at all, if Anwar falters as the prime minister, the people who voted Harapan into power will shoulder the responsibility for their mistake.
Dr Mahathir can be assured that he would not be blamed.
In fact, if Dr Mahathir is genuinely worried about making mistakes, then he should seriously relook his blunders of the past 16 months.
Not being able to see the clear writing on the wall before him today is another Mahathir mistake, a most glaring and grave one in fact.
I believe that when history is written, political leaders known for harbouring imagined self-importance are not the ones who matter.
It would be very sad if Mahathir is lumped in that category. He deserves better, but unfortunately, by overstaying his welcome and indulging endlessly in political games, even at this late stage of his political career, he could land on the heap of political leaders history would rather forget.
I hope my dear prime minister, Dr Mahathir, will seriously reflect on that.
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.