Najib the least of Mahathir’s concerns


The real issue is whether Mahathir can be the leopard that changed its spots.

Joe Fernandez, Free Malaysia Today

Mahathir Mohamad, who needs no introduction, probably fancies himself as some sort of latter day Deng Xiaoping.

After Deng “stepped down”, he had “no official posts” i.e. he left the public eye. He was an “ordinary person”. Yet he ran China until the day he died. Deng, even during his time in “office”, was never head of state, head of government, or the general-secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. The only post that Deng was reported to have held was as the Chairman of the Central Advisory Commission of the Communist Party.

Yet, in or out of “office”, Deng was the de facto leader of China. Déjà vu!

The four most powerful persons in China “reported” to Deng. If they did anything important without consulting him, they suddenly had “problems”. Deng knew how to navigate the system and exert his influence. The four most powerful persons were the President, Prime Minister, the general-secretary and Chairman of the Military Commission. Deng was a unique form of leadership. He operated smoothly. Mahathir, in that sense, is a failure as a Deng Xiaoping. Bear with me!

Deng was all about sustainability. His four modernisations – agriculture, industry, national defence and science and technology – were marked by the thinking: “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it can catch mice.”

Even so, Mahathir has raised legitimate concerns on Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, and we should perhaps take at least some notice of what he’s saying. He’s implying, in a pot calling the kettle black attack, that Najib has launched his own brand of unsustainability. Even more important, we should remember who is responsible for the mess the country is in now: Mahathir.

It began with the differences between Singapore and Malaysia i.e. the differences between Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir. The latter fears that Malaysia will become more like Singapore if Pakatan Rakyat seizes the reins of power in Putrajaya from the ruling Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN). If that really happens, that will be wonderful news and Singapore will be back in Malaysia in a jiffy and Sabah and Sarawak would not want part company with Malaysia. LKY himself had hinted at this – Singapore’s return — several times. Sabah and Sarawak are with Malaysia because of Singapore.

Singapore was all about meritocracy and sustainability, although the island is probably too small anyway as LKY feared, to be sustainable like India for example which has 8,000 years behind it.

Mahathir has been all about mediocrity, under the guise of Article 153 in the Federal Constitution and the New Economic Policy (NEP), and unsustainability.

Mahathir does not see unsustainability as an issue. He thinks that the unsustainable – i.e. his brand — will somehow become sustainable if you keep at it long enough. Leadership, he feels, should do the trick in turning around unsustainability into sustainability. This is where Najib, in Mahathir’s estimation, “falls apart”. Mahathir’s idea on unsustainability reads like the definition for insanity. The definition for insanity: keep on doing the same things which had brought failure and expect a different, and better, result. No one is convinced that there’s method in Mahathir’s madness. The man probably begs to differ.

Najib should be the least of Mahathir’s concerns although he’s making a mess of the country – i.e. having launched into his own brand of unsustainability — and will probably wreck it unless he’s not allowed to get away with it. In any case, things are likely to get a whole lot worse before they get any better, if at all. There’s a dangerous power vacuum in the country. It’s said that every organisation contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction.

Other countries, where dangerous power vacuums have emerged, are still suffering. Witness Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and some of the former republics in the defunct USSR. Ukraine is a tragic example. Here, following the denial of free speech, the issue is the lack of dialogue between the government and the people. Hence, the resort to arms. War, after all, is the continuation of politics by other means.