Dr M is the only choice for opposition for PM - By Commander (Rtd) S THAYAPARAN Royal Malaysian Navy
Friday, May 12, 2017
Malaysiakini: “Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The
past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets
- Haruki Murakami, ‘Dance Dance Dance’
There is this one reader who most often disagrees with me but who
really gets what I write. She emailed me and rightly concluded that I
would be supportive of former law minister Zaid Ibrahim’s sugegstion for
former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to be Pakatan Harapan’s
candidate for the post of prime minister. This one is for you, my
It is rare that I agree with everything someone writes but reading
and rereading what Zaid wrote about why Harapan should officially name
Mahathir as their candidate for the post of head honcho is exactly the
reason why the opposition is lucky to have Zaid as one of their
I have often accused the opposition of not being able to organise an
orgy in a brothel, and nothing they have done so far contradicts this, I
would say, axiom. There is no grand strategy and what the opposition is
doing right now is watching opportunities float away in a desperate
attempt to remain relevant while the chickens from their earlier
“brilliant strategies” come home to roost.
While one of the few political operatives I admire, DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang, has to reassure
people that he has no intention of ever becoming or even wanting to be
prime minister, the so-called ‘pact of hope’ has been unable to offer
Malaysians anyone from their ranks as someone who could lead us to
change, but more importantly lead the charge against Umno.
PKR leader Saifuddin Abdullah may joke that it would be easy to find
someone better than the current prime minister, but the real punchline
to this joke is that so far Harapan has been unable to agree upon
anything beyond the need to remove the current Umno grand poobah. And
since this is the stated goal of the opposition - to “save Malaysia” -
then the only tactical play would be to nominate the former prime
minister as their designated champion in the blood sport which is the
This will not be an election about ideas. While my columns have been
lamentations to the fact that it isn’t, this does not mean that I think
the goal of removing the current Umno grand poobah is an “unworthy” one.
I am on record as saying that removing Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak
and normalising the democratic process of replacing leaders is one of
the most important experience Malaysians could have.
What Zaid rightly points out is that this is an election of
personalities and the reality is that Harapan unfortunately does not
have an established Malay potentate to agitate the Malay vote, except
for Mahathir. Political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim, if he were to be set
free, may not be as effective in the kind of game the opposition has
committed itself to.
While someone like me is, and most probably always will be, critical
of Mahathir, there is no doubt that for good or bad, the former prime
minister understands not only the Malay mind but also the machinations
of ‘Melayu’ politics.
If you think that the situation is ripe for regime change, you are
far too optimistic. The best-case scenario, the only hope if not regime
change, is that the opposition denies Umno their two-thirds majority and
regroup, while Umno attempts to deal with possible rats who may decide
to jump ship. As Zaid correctly points out, the opposition has been playing defence
when it comes to “Malay fears” about a non-Malay prime minister. There
is a lack of credibility in the opposition when it comes to “Malay”
stewardship of this country and not because of any principled stand of
the opposition but because of this stupid opposition meme of the “right”
The Rasputin image
The opposition, especially the DAP, will never be free from the
Rasputin image because operatives over the years have said and done
stupid things which opposition operatives tell me has damaged the
argument that the Malays are “independent” in the opposition. Then of
course there is the stupid politics of those opposition operatives when
it comes to maintaining "unity", which does no such thing but is
perceived as hypocritical attempts to maintain power.
For instance, when Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali continues to
flirt with PAS, the perception is that the opposition is weak and the
“Umno rejects” will always need a crutch to stay in power. Meanwhile,
Mahathir, who has no problem attacking PAS and coining catchy slogans -
“dedak” - to humiliate their leadership, is viewed as someone with the
cojones to uphold the sort of ‘ketuanan’ that defines ‘Melayu’ politics.
As I have argued, this idea that the opposition is using the former
prime minister is complete bunkum. Nobody can use Mahathir and only the
most naïve opposition supporter would think this. The former prime
minister does the using, and this is exactly what those (including a
large chunk of the civil service spread across the country) believe
would bring stability and more directly, job security to their
A Mahathir-Najib showdown makes sense in a way that the whole 1MDB
fiasco could never. There is a clear Malay choice for the direction of
this country and with Mahathir at the helm; many Malays who are sick and
tired of the politicking that goes on would be encouraged to “save
Malaysia”. They would do this by giving the country back to the man who
more or less created modern Malaysia and who redefined the Malay polity
over the decades of his long watch.
The takeaway from this is that because he has seen the damage his
type of politics has caused, the former prime minister may come down on
elements both religious and political. This if only to ensure that the
next time a Malay potentate would wish to challenge the hegemon - an
offspring or whoever - they would have an easier time than their old
man. However, I digress.
The part that I really approved of from the Zaid piece
was this bit - “We need a leader who can assure ‘the deep state’ -
those who have the power to effect a change of government peacefully -
to support us.” This is an extremely important piece of the puzzle that
is often overlooked in all the discussion. The establishment knows Mahathir and they know that even though he
may bring some changes, they can live with those changes.
establishment understands that Islamic extremism is a threat that needs a
strong response and the former prime minister has never been shy of
confrontation even though he has used the religion as all Umno
politicians have done to maintain hegemony. Well, at least that is my
hope if Mahathir ever gets back into the driver’s seat.
This is the game the opposition has chosen to play and if they want
to win, they have to play for keeps. And that is the only way the former
prime minister knows how to play.