graphic by MZUKRI MOHAMAD
THIS week marks the anniversary of the Sheraton Move, considered by some as a black day in Malaysia’s democratic history, while others see it as a starting point for an amalgamation of Malay-Muslim political entities to bring down a duly elected government that was dominated by non-Malays/Muslims.
It was the beginning of the backdoor government with a prime minister (PM) whose legitimacy had been disputed from day one and continues to be so until today.
It is understandable that those opposed to the backdoor government of not being able to move on. But neither can those who participated and embraced the un-mandated one. It is doubtful that it is so because their conscience is pricked. More likely, it is from fear that the ill-gotten power will slip from their grasp.
And when fear of losing what was gained illegally becomes pervasive, then grasping at straws becomes a norm, so much so that a sardonic reaction from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture; left) to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s (right) request for support is taken at face value and regurgitated by a very senior official from his office as an endorsement from Dr Mahathir for Muhyiddin in his quest to be PM vis-a-vis the Sheraton Move.
It is quite surprising that Muhyiddin, being a Malay first political player, would not be able to distinguish the Malay nuances between an outright endorsement and a cynical reaction to Muhyiddin’s preparedness to work with the kleptocrats.
Obviously, it is a case of listening to only what he wants to hear.
However, the attempt to latch on to Dr Mahathir only exposes Muhyiddin further. Unable to legitimise his position and his government, he was probably hoping that promoting the idea that he had the endorsement of Dr Mahathir would rally the latter’s supporters to his side or at least cast doubt on him being a traitor or a backstabber to his former chairman.
But beyond that, anyone who follows Muhyiddin’s subsequent trail in the whole episode would realise that not only that the endorsement was not as he portrayed it to be, his sacking of Dr Mahathir from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia highlights his vitriol.
And simply put, whether Dr Mahathir endorsed him or otherwise, Muhyiddin’s ascension remains to be through the backdoor, and no matter how much he insisted that he had the support of Dr Mahathir, his legitimacy would remain elusive.
While Muhyiddin and his officers would continue to attempt to latch on to Dr Mahathir to keep afloat, those in Pakatan Harapan (PH), in particular from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), some from the DAP and a sprinkle from Parti Amanah Negara, are also stuck in a time loop since the Sheraton Move.
Unlike Muhyiddin and his officer, the PKR, DAP and Amanah leaders and supporters continue to blame Dr Mahathir for the fall of the PH government.
The refusal to see that the PH government had collapsed after Bersatu and former PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and his faction abandoned the coalition only served to keep them chasing their tails.
For as long as they insisted on repeating that script, they would not be able to see that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his faction had ensured that PH lost its majority by persecuting and victimising Azmin.
Lest the PKR obnoxious players admit, their spread of Azmin’s purported sexual misdemeanour and efforts to thwart his defence of his deputy PKR presidency, were seeds that they planted that led to the break-up and eventually defection culminated in the Sheraton Move.
Similarly, with the DAP, the inability to rein in leaders and supporters demanding Dr Mahathir to resign long before the tenure expired gave the needed justification for Muhyiddin and his fellow plotters to justify their move.
Apart from that, the continuous blame on Dr Mahathir also served to hide the PH collective denial that they are like the proverbial rodents led by a pied piper.
How else could it be explained that for more than a decade, these seasoned and “righteous” politicians, assured of the numbers to the promised land and never the count fulfilled, can yet continue to believe and to be led into the wilderness for the umpteen?
One possible explanation to this need to persistently blame Dr Mahathir is that it allows them to live and not face their own inadequacies — and this can be quite blissful.
Despite that, they can still function effectively and best, as the Opposition.
The same, however, cannot be said of Umno. When Dr Mahathir said he was prepared to return to Umno if it got rid of the kleptocrats, ironically, it was the kleptocrats that came forth to object to his thoughts and caveat.
Apart from refusing to accept that they were the very reason for Umno to lose its 60-year grip on power, the kleptocrats are determined to not lose their hold on the party.
If prior to this, they were perceived to be using Umno to secure wealth, they are now using the party to secure their release from their cases. By any standards, a leader with integrity and some love for the party’s struggle, would step aside if he knows that he has dragged the party into the mud and is dragging it further if he continues to helm it.
Instead, they use all means to tighten their grip and create a cultlike following, not much different than the deviationists of the sky kingdom infamy.
All these factions actually represent the three potential coalitions on the plate for voters in the country in the next election — the Perikatan Nasional, the PH and the Umno-led Barisan Nasional. They are obviously not very palatable unless some distinct and deliberate changes are affected.
But voters should be cautioned not to hold their breath.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.