FORMER prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is not the dictator he is made out to be, said Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman and Fahmi Fadzil.

The two young politicians from Bersatu and PKR said Dr Mahathir is more supportive of reforms now and tends to listen to all the views before deciding on an issue.

“Firstly, is the change of his support for article 15 of the Universities and Universities College Act (UUCA) that outlawed student participation in politics. He said it three times publicly that he no longer supports it,” said Bersatu Youth (Armada) chief Syed Saddiq last night at a forum.

“Secondly, he has declared his support for separating the ministerial portfolios, like the prime minister and minister of finance to ensure that there are no overlaps and better transparency.  

 “He is also the only leader to back youth suggestions, like limiting the term of ministers to two and corporatising the vetting process for youth leaders,” Syed Saddiq added.

PKR communications director Fahmi said he was surprised when Dr Mahathir opened up to the other opposition leaders for advice during Pakatan Harapan’s meetings.

“My perception of him is that of an authoritarian figure and that ‘only his views are accepted’,” said Fahmi, who got involved in politics during the 1998 reformasi movement after then deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim was sacked by Dr Mahathir.

“However, when he is in Pakatan Harapan, it is interesting to see that he wants the leaders to voice out their views, like in the recent meeting on logos.”

Fahmi said Dr Mahathir asked everyone to voice their opinions and even counted in the end to ensure everyone has had a say.

The theatre performer turned politician added that it is important for youth to understand that “it is not about a blast from the past or whether the opposition have U-turned, but to work together to save the country”.

“For me, I have seen Dr Mahathir in the PH meetings. And although people say he is an old face, but the amount of energy that he has, from 8pm to midnight, he can still carry on  . He is usually the last person to go to the restroom, he has that energy,” said Fahmi.

Fahmi and Syed Saddiq were replying to questions from the floor on why PH has such senior leaders, such as Dr Mahathir, when it is pushing for more youth involvement in the political process.

They were joined by two other panellists, Syahredzan Johan and Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud, at the “Change government or change youths” forum organised by Kelab Bangsar Utama. The session was moderated by lawyer Quratulain Atiqah Norzahirul Anuar.