Malaysian old men of politics in last fling of old politics

umar mukhtar

Umar Mukhtar

Watching Lim Kit Siang and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in a one-to-one face off in the Great Economi Debate of 1972 at Dewan Tunku Chanselor, Universiy Of Malaya, one couldn’t help thinking even then that either one of these guys could throw this country into chaos should they choose to. The idealism displayed was scorching.

But against the backdrop of May 13, 1969, both were quite disciplined in their elucidations but the deep animosity showed. Over the years, they slowly adopted new politics in their argumentative style and political demeanor. One would expect this would stay on, to their credit, as their inate abilities to stay relevant.

But in the last two months or so, one senses that some urgencies are pushing these two old hardy men back into the old politics they grew up in. A world where information travelled at snail’s pace, where one can contradict oneself with impunity and still get away with it. The thing that overrode everything is doing things at one’s satisfaction for the moment. The truth could go to hell, the then audience were what counted.

So it is quite surprising when you see Mahathir groveling to the foreign press at the expense of his country just to prove his point, even though the jury is still out. If I remember correctly, he demonised Anwar Ibrahim for doing the same, and his hatred for the Jewish-owned Anglo-Saxon foreign press was an overwhelming obssesion. It seems that all that matters now is a chance to be listened to. Usually an old man’s malady, no doubt.

Then LKS in his effort to manouvre PAS into pariahland was pushing everything he could towards that end. First, he said Pakatan Rakyat is dead and waiting for funeral rites, hoping that Azmin Ali would be compelled to choose DAP over PAS as PKR partner in the Selangor government. It didn’t work. So now he has to say Pakatan Rakyat in not actually dead and that DAP will work with anybody who wants Barisan Nasional out. The self-imposed amnesia is embarrasing

The common thing about these two happenings is that these old men think that we may not notice the anomaly, either because we just love them so much as not to scrutinise anything negative or they assumed that we don’t care about these small things. Grandpa leaving his underwear all over the place is his privilege. So they think.

I don’t think this slip into the past is an unconscious regression in behaviour. I think it is something else. There is some unfinished business that they think only they can see it through, no matter what. In that rush, they go back to their old practice in a world in which lies and hypocrisy will only be noticed after the job at hand was done.

How does the thinking by New York Times‘s readers help us about the supposed undesirability of Najib and 1MDB? The only conclusion they come to, if they do, has to be that Malaysia is a piece of shit, except for this man named Mahathir. And how that will help our international financial, political and social profile is a mystery. This old man is fantasising that New Yorkers will drop whatever they do and come here to spit in Najib’s face? Their normal reaction to these kind of stories is how glad they are that they are Americans,

Mahathir sounded pathetic because New Politics speaks a different language. Most interviews nowadays are lobbying for support not dirty-linen old ladies’ story-telling gossips. Similarly, Malaysians know that LKS is struggling in his knickers about PAS spoiling his party because no matter what he says about Hadi Awang and Hudud, he still doesn’t want to lose power-sharing with PKR. But he doesn’t have to make stupid remarks and then having to eat his words. To Old Politics, this is okay. Not today.

What is evident is that these two men are badly jaded, and desperate to leave the arena blazing in glory. All the idealism they exhibited on stage in 1972, though realthen, are now nothing more than glimpses of our own youth. The differences is we know when to quit and make way for the young ones. Some people, though, feel they are indispensable.