(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has
returned to an UMNO-staged “hero’s welcome”, where he publicly
explained for the first time what resignations he had intended to
announce at the close of the 56th UMNO General
Assembly on June 22 before he was stopped and mobbed by hysterical UMNO
leaders and members and the reasons for his action.
While I had never doubted the genuineness of his
resignation announcements and
intention (including the unannounced one concerning the office of Prime
Minister) of June 22 or the
subsequent 16-month power
transition plan, only the gullible will accept at face value the
simplistic reasons he gave at Subang yesterday as it was clear that he
had not given all the reasons, including the more important ones,
which had prompted him to make the surprise resignation announcements at
the close of the UMNO General Assembly.
The reasons given by Mahathir yesterday were that he had
served UMNO and the nation for 21 years, a period that was far too long for a
Prime Minister, and that UMNO had
regained strength after having gone through a turbulent period in 1998 and 1999.
He said he had much earlier spoken to several party
leaders, including UMNO deputy president Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and
UMNO secretary-general Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob about his intentions to resign but
they kept asking him to continue.
The reasons given by Mahathir cannot be the only or even
the most important factors
that resulted in his precipitate decision at the close of the UMNO general
assembly to want to announce his resignation from all government and party posts
with immediate effect, for he would then at least
have confided in his wife, Datuk Seri Dr. Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali and his
family who had stated that they had long wanted him to retire as Prime Minister.
Furthermore, if Mahathir had for some time been seriously
thinking about a “smooth and orderly transition” of power culminating in his
resignations from all government and party posts at the 56th UMNO
General Assembly, then a case could be made out that he had acted rather
irresponsibly, for three reasons:
Firstly, he had never allowed Abdullah to be Acting Prime Minister for even once in the 42 months he was Deputy Prime Minister since January 1999, when Mahathir must have made 50-60 overseas trips, including the very long absence of a month when he went to the Andes and Antartica early this year.
Secondly, it was rather irresponsible for Mahathir to
precipitately resign from all posts after 21 years without a “smooth and
orderly transition”, especially as he also held the important post of Finance
Minister, without a second Finance Minister
and was in the final stage of preparation for the 2003 Budget which was
to be presented to Parliament and nation on 20th September 2002 (more
than a month earlier than the traditional annual budget presentation because of
the earlier Muslim puasa month and Hari Raya
Thirdly, in contrast to the view that the changing of the
guard after 21 years as Prime Minister was long overdue, there is the opposite
view that Mahathir was irresponsible in not seeing through to their
success the initial moves he had taken to remove the subsidy mentality of the
bumiputeras as a result of the affirmative policies under the New Economic
Policy of which he was the chief promoter
and to enhance the country’s international competitiveness by restoring the
people’s former mastery of the English language, on the premise that Abdullah
would not be politically strong enough to overcome the powerful resistance and
political forces that would be
marshaled against these reforms.
Whatever the truth of the third factor, there can be no
doubt that there were weightier and
more important reasons than the stated ones resulting in Mahathir’s
precipitate resignation announcements on June 22 and explaining for his unusual
public emotional display which cannot be solely attributed to “getting old”
and therefore being “a little bit emotional”.
Be that as it may, now that a 16-month transition period
for the full transfer of the office and powers of the Prime Minister from him to
Abdullah after the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Kuala
Lumpur in October next year has been decided upon, it is incumbent upon Mahathir
to focus his attention and energies on what he could and should do in the last
16 months of his 22 years and 3 months as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
This is not the time for Mahathir to dwell on his
achievements or legacy but to try
to rectify the fundamental flaws and weaknesses of his administration of over
two decades, the foremost of which is undoubtedly the centralization of power in
his hands as a result of the twin developments
of the subversion of the
doctrine of the separation of powers and the undermining of the independence,
integrity and professionalism of key institutions of state, whether the
Judiciary, Parliament, the Attorney-General, the Auditor-General, the Police,
the Election Commission, Bank Negara, a free and independent media or a vibrant
Mahathir should seriously consider the appointment of
an Eminent Persons Group to report within a month what he could do
in the next 15 months before he finally steps down as Prime Minister to
rectify these flaws and weaknesses to leave behind a healthier and more solid
foundation for Malaysia to face the challenges of the new century.
Malaysians tapped for this Eminent Persons Group should be
of impeccable credibility, independence and
integrity, covering a representative cross-section of Malaysian society, such as
former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Musa Hitam, human rights advocate Raja Aziz
Addruse, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and
Lawyers Datuk Param Cumaraswamy, DAP Advisor Dr.
Chen Man Hin, renowned thinkers like Dr. Chandra Muzaffar and
Professor Syed Hussein Alatas, among others.
The areas which such an Eminent Persons Group should
International competitiveness and a revisit of the New
A world-class education system.
A just rule of law and truly independent judiciary.
Upholding the 1957 Merdeka Constitution, “social
contract” and 1963 Malaysia Agreement that Islam is the official religion but
Malaysia is not an Islamic State.
Parliamentary Reforms to restore Parliament’s role to
legislate, deliberate and hold the government to account and not be a
rubber-stamp of the Executive.
Human rights – in particular the fundamental liberties of
freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association and the rights to information
Information Technology – how (i) to close the digital
divide and (ii) bridge the gap between the rhetoric and reality
to position Malaysia in the very forefront of the
A world model
of inter-religious and inter-civilisational dialogue and understanding; and
World-standard sports achievements – a serious lag highlighted by the recently-concluded World Cup, where the football standards of South Korea, Japan and China have improved by leaps and bounds with South Korea qualifying for the World Cup semi-finals when not so long in the past, these nations were regularly defeated by Malaysia in soccer tournaments!