Under pressure from various quarters, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad finally tendered his apology at the recent PPBM inaugural assembly.
But, not everyone is happy with his apology. Many think that the apology was not made sincerely as he did not substantially explain why he apologized.
If he had said, “I should not have started the Ops Lalang. I feel deeply sorry for the detainees and their families. I shouldn’t have suspended three newspapers and sacked the judge,” most people would probably accept his apology and forgive him, even though he left the other scandals out.
He later explained in a press conference that he apologized because he was a Malay, and that it was the Malay culture to apologize.
So, the apology is all about cultural observance, not because of confession of a person’s sins, or remorse.
That said, if we were to look at this matter from another perspective, apology is not something easy for a tough-handed political strongman. This also reflects his understanding of public consensus as well as his seasoned political artistry.
Besides the apology, Mahathir also talked lengthily about national reforms at the assembly. He said if Pakatan Harapan were to win the next general election, it would make sure the country’s messed up laws would be put back to order and the rights of citizens be restored.
Ironically, it was during his premiership that many of the country’s laws, including constitutional provisions, were screwed up, infinitely swelling the executive powers beyond control.
Mahathir even said freedom of speech and media freedom would all be restored and the Pakatan government would reinstate judiciary independence.
However, he didn’t touch on how he clamped down on press freedom and judiciary independence back in those years.
It is good that at such an advanced age he finally admitted the many defects of this country of his own doing. The thing is, how is he going to bring back a balanced mechanism?
In the absence of an authoritative Malay leader to head the opposition pact, PKR’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim was compelled to let Mahathir take the baton, and it is very likely that the party will eventually agree also to let Mahathir become the interim PM. It doesn’t matter what conditions both sides have agreed behind.
Indeed Mahathir knows politics much better than any other Pakatan leader. He wants PKR to stop all negotiations with PAS, and this shows that he is indeed more resolved than Anwar, Wan Azizah or Azmin. A tug of war with PAS will only hurt the pact.
Without a right person to pick, Pakatan is forced to bring back the frail old man to the fore.
If those unhappy with Mahathir could not accept him because he failed to apologize for his past wrongdoings, how are they going to accept him as the interim PM? In view of this, voters still need to psychologically adapt themselves to Mahathir’s return to the frontline.
Another question is: will Mahathir have the time and stamina to deliver the promised reforms even if Pakatan were to win the next general election? It is impossible for him to accomplish the mission of saving this country alone.
As more and more things go out of hands in this country in recent years, with religious extremism and political populism now taking charge, how is Mahathir going to put things straight again?
The management of the country is in tatters but unfortunately no one has been held responsible for all the irregularities. Plugging administrative and management loopholes will take time. Mahathir simply does not have that much stamina any more.
On top of that, reviving the ailing economy, reversing the racial policies, boosting the people’s incomes and the country’s overall competitiveness, reforming our substandard education and resolving a host of other social and family problems etc. all warrant a crystal clear policy blueprint.
PH has so far not put forth any reform agenda, and this makes Mahathir’s apology and national reform aspiration anything but convincing.
If Dr Mahathir has strived to join the opposition to undo his own mistakes and not for his own good, I believe he will get a fair judgment by history.
The true values and significance of life lie with how much we contribute towards the society and nation. This is what I wish to share with our politicians today.