Dr Mahathir continues to voice his opinions

(The Straits Times) – Former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is not about to make a comeback — at least not literally.

But he has promised to keep voicing his opinions as long as he is capable of doing so, despite some worries that his views may hurt support for the government under new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Yet there are others who say the government needs to tap the experience of Dr Mahathir, especially in tackling the economic problems caused by the global financial meltdown.

His recent public comments have shown that he is not about to keep quiet any time soon.

“I have lots of observations on the conduct of the two by-elections (which Barisan Nasional lost in Kedah and Perak). But I will reserve them for the future,” he wrote in a recent posting on his blog.

On concerns that he is forcing Najib into acting based on his opinions, he has said that he is not a consultant to the premier and the government does not have to listen to him.

When Najib said the ruling BN coalition might skip the coming by-election in Penanti, that upset Dr Mahathir.

“I gave valid reasons. But I'm only expressing my opinion. He (Najib) doesn't have to follow what I say. I give my opinion but they don't consult me. I'm not a consultant on every issue,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Since the new premier took office on April 3, Dr Mahathir has voiced his opinions on imported car permits, the choices of Cabinet members, by-elections and the crooked bridge to replace the Johor Causeway.

Najib has had to juggle Dr Mahathir's demands with the silent expectations of his own predecessor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

But as evidenced by the standing ovation Dr Mahathir received when he turned up at the closing ceremony of the recent Umno annual assembly, many in the party still look up to him.

“The track record of Dr Mahathir in overcoming the (1997-98) economic crisis cannot be denied by anyone, including opposition chief Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim,” wrote columnist Zulkiflee Bakar in Utusan Malaysia newspaper.

“It is a big waste if Dr Mahathir's wisdom and expertise are not tapped,” he added.

Dr Mahathir had quit the party when he became unhappy with his successor's administration and promised to return only when Abdullah resigned as party president.

Dr Mahathir constantly attacked Abdullah throughout his 5½-year reign.

Answering his critics on the return of “Mahathirism” Dr Mahathir said: “I will leave it to Malaysians to judge and to define 'Mahathirism'. They are the constituents which Najib should care about.”

Najib has so far not responded to any of Dr Mahathir's comments.

Political analyst Shamsul Baharuddin felt that Najib is making the right move by leaving Dr Mahathir alone.

“We can see that Najib is allowing Mahathir to talk. Let him talk but don't reply to any of his comments. This is the best way,” he said.