Friday Jottings: Which tail wags and which dog

IT IS in part déjà vu, and in part going around the mulberry bush when the police questioned Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) yesterday over his promotion of the Malay proclamation.

According to his lawyer Rafique Rashid Ali, Dr Mahathir is being investigated for “committing an activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy.”

Those who have read the proclamation may wonder how a document that seeks to unite the Malays as a means to redeem their political and economic equity be deemed detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

But be that as it may, such investigation is not something alien to Dr Mahathir and it is doubtful that it would silence the feisty politician.

If based on his previous political ventures, the more efforts are being put to such end, the more determined and driven he becomes.

The last of such campaigns was when Dr Mahathir spearheaded the Deklarasi Rakyat or People’s Declaration in 2016 which demanded then Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak to step down for his complicity in the 1MDB infamy.

Numerous barbs were thrown in his path in realising 1 million signatories for the declaration. Along the way until the 2018 polls, Dr Mahathir was questioned by the police on several issues and even his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali was not spared.

His loyalist Datuk Seri Khairuddin Abu Hassan and lawyer Matthias Chang were both incarcerated under the dreaded Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 or simply SOSMA.

(Note: Khairuddin had since then won his suit for illegal detention against the authorities).

When the 1 million signatures were obtained and attempts to get the Malay Rulers to act on it failed, Dr Mahathir then proceeded to set up the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and joined hands with his old nemesis Anwar Ibrahim and the DAP.

More intimidations followed from the then Najib administration but it did not deter Dr Mahathir from pursuing what he had set his mind on, which was to bring about the end of Najib’s rule.

Old files were re-opened and even a royal commission of inquiries was set up to “expose” Dr Mahathir of his “crimes” when he was PM for 22 years.

But none managed to pin him for any wrongdoings or abuse of power.

At best, all the efforts provided some ammunition for Najib’s cyber-troopers to take potshots and make accusations without needing to prove anything.

While his friends and foes, then and now, may refuse to acknowledge it, it is his single-mindedness in pursuing the agenda that ensured the Pakatan Harapan’s victory and the downfall of Umno and Barisan Nasional which no pundits at that time had predicted as possible.

If anything, many of the pundits, analysts, and academics were dismissing the opposition’s chances, and their slights, intentionally or otherwise, had the effect of discouraging the public from supporting the opposition.

Even pollsters came out with results that the Najib administration would retain the Government and some even more ludicrously predicted a two-thirds majority for the ruling party.

But all that has come to pass and there have been four PMs since Najib.

While supporters of the current PM may not like hearing it, Dr Mahathir, when toppling Najib, was the only PM since then that won the majority outright from the polls.

In contrast, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri formed the Government via statutory declarations and backdoor negotiations.

Anwar Ibrahim’s PH failed to secure even a simple majority in the last polls and only managed to secure the coveted Prime Minister seat by cobbling together a post-electoral pact and to a lot of degree with the palace’s indulgence.

Against this backdrop, all the efforts, the People’s Declaration included, were provided for in the Constitution and the system of parliamentary democracy.

Surely attempting to rally people to vote against or withdraw their support for this current government cannot be deemed as an act detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

Neither can horse-trading nor backdoor wheeling-dealing among politicians be deemed as a detriment either because it is consistent with the provisions that the PM must enjoy majority support in Parliament.

Furthermore, the current PM himself was pretty adept at it as he had attempted such deals since the 2008 polls and several times during the backdoor governments of Muhyiddin and Ismail Sabri.

If his attempts then were accepted by his supporters and apologists because he was doing it against backdoor governments, surely, they would have to accept that any similar attempts were being mounted against him as equally fair given that he did not command the majority after the polls and that his government is a post-electoral pact.

But many would probably agree if there are attempts to topple the Government via violence and street demonstrations and such acts could be deemed as being detrimental to parliamentary democracy.

This too is something the current PM is very familiar with.

But all these do not involve Dr Mahathir, even though they did when he was PM the first time around.

This time, his role today is merely speaking up about Malay unity, pointing out that without it they lose their bargaining power and ability to ensure their longevity cannot be deemed as detrimental either.

It does not call for the toppling of the government either through the backdoor or the front and is far from urging anyone to go on the streets.

The proclamation is neither abrasive nor aggressive. It is very much a self-reproach than blaming others. It doesn’t shout nor is it loud. It is soft-spoken and remorseful and conscious of its place in the nation’s equation.

It is in essence, Malay. – pic Hussein Shaharuddin


  • Shamsul Akmar is an editor at The Malaysian Reserve.

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