It is too simplistic and vicious to suggest that PM Abdullah Badawi is the sole contributor to all our woes. But Dr Mahathir, his son Mukhriz, some UMNO stalwarts and a few Pakatan Rakyat leaders seemed to think so. They argue, regardless how unconvincingly, by getting Abdullah to step down this nation will be on its way up again. Our concern is which way up?
Let’s look at some of their arguments. Dr Mahathir claims that Abdullah is the main cause of the dismal electoral performance of BN component parties including UMNO. Abdullah is also blamed for weakening UMNO.
On the outset, his argument looks legitimate because Abdullah had allowed his youth leaders to wave the Malay dagger (‘keris’) at their general assembly. He did nothing to stop racial outbursts and accusations within his party. Moreover, Abdullah’s promises of reforms came to a nought. Malaysians were desperate and wanted changes fast. Abdullah did not have the ability or political courage to give them what they wanted.
Abdullah did not fear the people. Can’t be if he had allowed his boys to threaten the non-Malays as they wished. But Abdullah feared one man, Dr Mahathir. It was his fear of this man which paralysed his ability to implement his reform agenda. Dr Mahathir when appointed Abdullah as his successor had wanted a compliant and obedient Prime Minister so that he can continue to influence the government from behind the scene. Yet, advisers to Abdullah had advised him to become his own man. They would have advised him against becoming a transitional PM, a private deal which was later revealed by Dr Mahathir.
Chiefly, Dr Mahathir is angry with him not because Abdullah has turned into a Prophet of Doom for UMNO and Malaysia but Abdullah has continued to defy him – from the crooked bridge, Proton, MAS, UMNO line-up, and his other many legacies.
Recently, the secret tape of VK Lingam was exposed and the government did not have any choice but to set up a Royal Commission of Judiciary to look into the allegations. Again, Dr Mahathir’s weakness is exposed. It is not a secret that Mahathir had trampled on the judiciary since the 1988 sacking of Salleh Abbas. When named as a key witness, Mahathir reacted strongly by saying that it was a blackmail to shut him up.
Comparatively, Abdullah should be credited for giving much more liberal space for others to speak up. Imagine during Mahathir time, would it be possible for an UMNO member of parliament to call for him to step down without being immediately reprimanded. Would it be possible for a MCA president to speak out on apostasy, social and religious freedom et cetera?
What Abdullah did wrong was to allow others to rule and lead in his place. He is no PM material and he did not have a choice either when chosen by Mahathir to succeed him. It is too simplistic and vicious for Mahathir to pressure a democratically elected president of UMNO and the Prime Minister of Malaysia to step down just because the top man did not want to take instructions from him.
Malaysia’s socio-economic problems and issues cannot be contributed and attributed to a man barely had 4 years leading the country. Our eroding economic and human resource competitiveness is a result of decades of political abuse and poor execution. During Mahathir’s time, he had substituted soft development e.g. critical thinking, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship with populist mega projects and crony capitalism. These skills and values can only thrive and blossom in a true democracy, not an autocracy.
How can we take Mahathir seriously when he recently suggested that Malays have lost their rights and dominance to non-Malays and the latter can now demand whatever they wanted?
How can a racist and domineering UMNO become relevant, as suggested by Mahathir, in the context of a power-sharing and multiracial BN? Apart from demanding that Abdullah steps down, Mahathir did not provide any other concrete solution to solve our socio-economic woes – most of them are side-effects from Mahathir’s era.
A Pakatan Rakyat leader suggested that the current political crisis besieging UMNO and the federal government can only be resolved when Abdullah Badawi announced a time frame to step down gracefully. He said that current standoff between Mahathir and Abdullah is putting off foreign investors. As a remedy, he asked Prime Minister Abdullah to announce his transition plan.
Coming from an investment coordinator and a former IT business consultant, it is interesting to note that Abdullah’s resignation, to him, is far more important than correcting our macroeconomic policies e.g. subsidy structure, productivity level, human capital enhancement, prohibitive equity quotas and regulations et cetera. By asking Abdullah, a sitting PM and a democratically elected leader, to step down and not for Mahathir to shut up makes his call very suspicious and shallow. Is he saying that Mahathir, a retired PM and a non-UMNO member, has a right to interfere in the operations of the present government and UMNO?
Whether or not Abdullah wants to step down as UMNO President, it is for him to decide at least until his party’s election in December. As a prime minister who has just won a decisive mandate, he should be given a free hand to govern until the next general election when the voters will again decide his fate.
It is not for Mahathir or anyone to force a change in our democratic process using the most vicious and undemocratic way.