When riding a tiger…


IT SEEMS some who wanted to get Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) to agree to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s request for a meeting had used two approaches in wanting to realise it.

One attempts to appeal to Dr Mahathir’s sense of Malay nationalism and the other reminding him that if he chooses to openly oppose the new administration, his legacy will be blighted and he will not be remembered well by the Malays.

Those passing these messages in trying to convince Dr Mahathir to meet Muhyiddin were obviously unfit to play the role.

If they had only taken time to understand Dr Mahathir, they would have reflected on how he reacted to similar arguments to convince him to stop his criticisms of Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak when they were the fifth and sixth prime ministers (PMs) respectively.

He had consistently said it did not matter to him what people thought of him after he had died, and that what mattered to him was what he did while he was alive.

And using the Malay interest in this context is equally dicey as Dr Mahathir clearly stated how much can the Malays benefit if the government is propped up by kleptocrats.

To him, and shared by his fan base, what pride is there if the only thing achieved from the formation of the new government is having a Malay-dominated structure but filled with those who led to the rejection of the electorates in the last general election.

Simply put, taking Umno in en bloc was literally handing back the government to the very party both he and Muhyiddin had worked hard to dislodge, and to ignore that was tantamount to a betrayal to those who elected Pakatan Harapan (PH) into power.

Indeed, it can be argued that much of the misfortunes suffered by PH were self-inflicted, given the crass and boorish nature of some supporters in undermining the leadership just because of wanting the change posthaste.

But the internal squabbles had become a moot point now that Perikatan Nasional (PN) had taken over. If anything, the squabbles would only serve as a lesson on how PH intends to move forward.

With PH left on the back burner, at least for the time being, the focus is on how PN is coping with the incongruity of its ascension. Again, it may be argued that the formation of the new government did not flout the laws of the country. However, in so far as the general take of the whole affair is that PN had immorally hijacked the power from a legitimately elected government.

Whether PN supporters like it or not, the crux of the matter is that when the people voted in the 2018 general election, the choice was made between the incumbent Barisan Nasional and PH, and the outcome gave the latter the mandate.

Further to that, questions were raised as to whether Muhyiddin did have the numbers on the fateful day he was named the eighth PM.

Of course, today, Dr Mahathir conceded that the numbers would have moved on to Muhyiddin’s side and probably many more would do likewise as the matter drags on.

The issue is whether he had the majority at the material time, and that Dr Mahathir and allies had disputed and were prepared to prove that the numbers were with them.

That will remain a bone of contention and postponing the parliamentary sitting added credence to the accusations that Muhyiddin did not have the numbers then.

It is because of that, Muhyiddin — despite having consolidated his position — is posturing to extend the olive branch to which Dr Mahathir stated his reluctance on grounds that he did not want to deal with someone who is working with Umno/kleptocrats.

Enter Tan Sri Rais Yatim, a former minister, who questioned Dr Mahathir for putting preconditions on the meeting.

To Rais, what if Muhyiddin had imposed pre-conditions as well, that he would meet Dr Mahathir only if Dr Mahathir got rid of the DAP first.

It is such attempts that murky the situation further as it was given without reason or rhyme and neither with wit nor thoughts. Obviously, Muhyiddin could and would not put any pre-condition as he is the one requesting to meet Dr Mahathir.

But the not such intelligent attempts to “champion” Muhyiddin is symptomatic of Malay politics — it doesn’t matter what the issue is. What matters is to be the first, fastest, quickest to do so.

The Malay saying “sokong bawa rebah” — simply translated to mean “the support that’ll be the cause of the downfall” — is probably apt.

Nevertheless, Muhyiddin’s need for Dr Mahathir’s endorsement is not surprising. What Dr Mahathir had predicted of Umno swallowing Muhyiddin and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia seems to come true.

Johor, which used to have a Bersatu man at the helm, is now in Umno. Melaka, eyed by a Bersatu man who supported the new political structure and said to be hoping to be the new chief minister was ungraciously discarded, while Perak, also used to have a Bersatu mentri besar is now being challenged by both Umno and PAS.

Even Muhyiddin’s Cabinet is being questioned by disgruntled Umno MPs who felt that they deserve the lion’s share given their bigger numbers in the new coalition.

Such is the predicament and that all these are paid with the price of discarded principles and values.

Yet some can stomach it. A victory, they claim, is a victory, even if it’s pyrrhic.

Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.