Past vs present, prince vs politician, preachers vs progressives ― what’s next for Malaysia?


(MMO) – Two roads are diverging ahead for Malaysia and its people as the country clumps towards 2020.

The issues dominating headlines lately, from the sports attire of national gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi during her recent gold-winning stint at the Singapore SEA Games to the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal and the unending debate over PAS’ hudud bid, are manifestations of our struggle to define our future.

As we chart our course towards developed nationhood, here are the three most pressing dilemmas Malaysia must deal with.

1. The past or the present?

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak who set out to transform the country in 2009 has come under much pressure in his second term in office, currently over his brainchild 1MDB.

Under siege, the sixth PM drew deep into his Bugis ancestry for the “warrior spirit”, and declared that he will never back down amid calls for his resignation.

But that declaration appears to be haunting him now following his notable absence from the   “Nothing2Hide” forum here on June 5, where he was scheduled to dialogue with civil society on current affairs, including 1MDB’s financial irregularities.

The public forum would have pitted him face-to-face with his past: former prime minister-turned-vocal critic Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who has been persistently raising questions on the Najib administration’s handling of 1MDB and its RM42 billion debt, but which was cancelled at the last minute purportedly to maintain “public order”.

For Najib who had scored relatively high ratings before Election 2013, that forum marked the swing in public support from him to Dr Mahathir. The defining moment when Dr Mahathir, 89, was manhandled by the police during his impromptu speech after Najib failed to show.

It was ironic that the man who earned notoriety for the iron fist with which he ruled the country for 22 years has found merit in freedom of speech ― especially when succeeding prime ministers fail to seek his advice and guidance in governing the country.

With Dr Mahathir firing salvo after salvo at Najib, the prime minister has taken to address the questions on his personal blog.

And while the end of Dr Mahathir’s administration was coloured by an uprising, some in society have now made an about-turn and yearn for a return where his uncompromising attitude had pulled Malaysia through some tough times.

So, what’s next for Malaysia?

Will it stand by Pahang-born aristocrat Najib and his Barisan Nasional administration whom they had voted for in Election 2013 even as living costs rise following the introduction of the unpopular Goods and Services Tax (GST) in April?

Or will it side with the meddling Dr Mahathir and his pick of Najib’s successor from the Umno pool, which the Kedah-born has admitted to be very shallow and devoid of intellect?

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