THE stage may be different. The party anthem, though upbeat, is less catchy than the previous one. And the new flag no longer carries a green keris.
But it was a familiar scene as Dr Mahathir Mohamad climbed onto the stage to give the final speech for the night.
Though 14 years older now at 92, he looked no less at home in Johor’s royal town last night than if this were the Putra World Trade Centre, the Umno headquarters he built.
Where in 2003 he took his last bow at the Umno annual general assembly as party president, last night, Dr Mahathir gave his inaugural party address at Bersatu’s first anniversary as the party chairman last night.
He used a script often repeated on his blog and in his weekly “Eradicate Kleptocracy” campaigns around the country. A speech Bersatu members and many Malaysians have gotten used to by now.
But last night, Dr Mahathir did not need to be the main act. Although he is Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan chairman, the meatier speech was handled by Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin.
Muhyiddin promised seven policies – including limiting the prime minister to two terms in office and reducing the prime minister’s powers in the Federal Constitution – which PH would institute within its first 100 days in Putrajaya.
As Muhyiddin announced the policies, loud cheers and applause greeted each promise. Some of these promises were clear reversals of the policies Dr Mahathir had instituted during his administration.
There was another similarity between Dr Mahathir’s speech last night and his final Umno presidential address in 2003. Then, he had warned Umno members to put the party above self as he had noticed the unhealthy trend of money politics seeping into the party.
He said emphasising on one person’s success might bring misfortune to the whole party.
“Because of this, every individual in Umno must strive to bring success to Umno and not struggle unnecessarily for personal gain.”
Last night, Dr Mahathir repeated the mantra of putting the collective before self. Missing this time, however, were Umno and Bersatu. In their place was Malaysia.
“Personal interests have no place in our struggle. The only interest that is important to us and the people is the interests of the country, race and religion,” said Dr Mahathir.
The person on the stage may be the same. The colour used to decorate it is still red. And the crowd still called out his name at the end.
But the doctor in the house is no longer a party man bent on doing it his way.
He no longer sings “Bersatu kita bersatu… kita rumpun melayu”, for his new song is “Bersatu untuk malaysia”.