SCMP editor: Dr M risking legacy with war against Putrajaya


(MMO) – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad could jeopardise his place in Malaysia’s history with his acrimonious attempt to depose Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, according to an editor with Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Tracing Dr Mahathir’s past, Zuraidah Ibrahim, who edits the “This Week in Asia” section of the newspaper, described him as a “comeback king” who surmounted possibly career-ending setbacks.

But she noted that his latest challenge may condemn the former prime minister to being remembered for the last hurdle he could not overcome, rather than for the achievements of his 22-year tenure as prime minister — the longest in the country’s history.

“Instead of departing on his terms, as he did in 2003, he may now find himself leaving the scene a loser, Zuraidah wrote.

The risk was particularly high when the once-influential former prime minister has been unable to rally the support needed to oust the head of the federal government, she wrote in an editorial piece titled “Is Malaysia’s Mahathir gambling his legacy by taking on Najib?”

This was exacerbated when Dr Mahathir chose to replicate the communal politics of Umno rather than seeking to appeal to a broader section of Malaysia in the vein of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s multiracial PKR.

“Many abhor his decision to base his new party on Malaysia’s corrosive template of racialised politics.

“His Parti Pribumi Bersatu represents the ‘sons of the soil’ — basically, the same Malay constituency that forms Umno’s base,” she wrote.

Others have levelled the same criticism at the party after news emerged that it could be Bumiputera-only. Rivals also questioned why a party would choose to be communal based in today’s political landscape.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who will be the party’s president once it is formalised, later announced that non-Bumiputera will be admitted, albeit with restricted memberships that do not allow them to contest for party positions.

The SCMP editor said that while it was understandable how career politicians cannot resist dabbling in politics after their retirement, it was also an indictment of the generation they cultivated.

“The real question is why a younger generation of politicians would need or want the services of a has-been.

“When yesterday’s man has to be rolled back in, it can only be because today’s men and women are bereft of answers. And that cannot be a good sign for the health of a country,” she said.

Dr Mahathir has had repeated success going after Malaysian prime ministers, most notably in 2009 when he was able to hound his handpicked successor, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, from office.

But he has now waged a campaign since late 2014 to try and force Najib from office without success, and has struggled to maintain the momentum of the early pressure.

The bitter war has been politically costly for the former prime minister, with once supporters and allies abandoning Dr Mahathir for fear of attracting reprisals over their association.

His son, Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, has also been a casualty of the campaign and was this year removed as Kedah mentri besar after state Umno lawmakers withdrew their support.

The campaign may also have taken a toll on his health; the 91-year-old was this week admitted to the National Heart Institute (IJN) with a chest infection, his latest heart-related incident since his first heart attack in 1989.