Dr Mahathir’s dilemma and his ‘retribution’


Sin Chew Daily

Dr Mahathir Mohamad is getting tough with Prime Minister Najib Razak, and is determined to go back to the political frontline by setting up a new party and fix the Opposition alliance.

However, that has hardly produced any positive result. Najib’s position is still rock solid and the former prime minister is obviously the underdog, seeing his son Mukhriz removed from the Kedah MB’s post and then kicked out of Umno.

Such a setback has been unprecedented in Mahathir’s political career. Even though he was momentarily disadvantaged at times, he could always turn the tide around and have the last laugh.

From his ouster from Umno in the 1960s by the first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, to facing the challenges from Umno’s Team B under Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in the 1980s, he had his way to sail past misfortunes unhurt, no matter how bad they were. Even Anwar Ibrahim’s Reformasi failed to push him out of office.

For all his years at the pinnacle of Malaysian politics, Mahathir has been the veritable victor. But not this time, when he has had to confront Najib.

His political trophies could be largely attributed to his exceptional tactics and unexpected strategies, but a more decisive factor was his total grip on power that allowed him to have the enormous space and the useful channels and “tools” to deal with his challengers.

To ensure total grip on power during his tenure as prime minister, Mahathir had on numerous occasions lambasted the country’s check-and-balance mechanisms. The most classic example of this being the removal of former Supreme Court Lord President Tun Salleh Abas pursuant to the constitutional crisis Mahathir had singlehandedly nurtured.

In this country the legislative and executive powers are almost held in the hands of the ruling coalition, and from here it is not hard to visualize the excessive power of the head of government. Because of this, we now need more than ever, an independent judiciary and other balancing mechanisms to curtail over-concentration and inflation of administrative power.

Unfortunately Mahathir repeatedly preyed on such mechanisms to greedily expand his scope of power, creating an infinitely powerful ruling machinery, only to discover the gravity of the problem years later having bowed out and confronting the sitting government.

Some say this is Mahathir’s “retribution” but the thing is, while he was indeed the man who sowed the seed of catastrophe, it is the whole citizenry that have to suffer the consequences, including our future generation.

Mahathir’s dilemma serves as a stern warning to all Malaysians, including those currently in power, to construct and preserve effective checks-and-balances, because no one can tell on which side of the balance an incumbent leader will stand in the future.