Looks as if we have a new set of human rights activists in town. Mahathir and his former cabinet ministers are speaking out against the Sosma arrests of Khairuddin and Matthias Chang.
Well and good. Yes, Sosma is an undemocratic law as it allows detention without trial, but so was the ISA, which we campaigned hard to get rid of. The ISA was used during the Mahathir administration, and most of the figures in this press conference were in power then except for Razaleigh who was an outcast post-1987 and served as president of the opposition Semangat 46.
It is tragic that Mahathir has emerged as the main critic of the BN. Everything that Mahathir says about Sosma could just as well have applied to the ISA, which was used to detain critics and dissidents. The former leaders gathered in the video mentioned Khairuddin and Matthias; but notice, they didn’t say a word about the jailed Anwar, widely seen as a political prisoner.
The larger issue here is that, to many observers, this looks like an attempt by one group of former Umno-BN elites, with their own set of business cronies, to replace the present elites, who have fallen out of public favour, with a more acceptable public face (perhaps Razaleigh?). This more acceptable face would then deflate and divert the forces in society seeking real, meaningful change – witness the people power we saw at Bersih 4. In 2003, it was Mahathir’s choice Abdullah Badawi who was the rallying point that was used to deflate the Reformasi movement while Anwar languished in prison.
Today, as Anwar once again languishes in his cell, can we pin our hopes on someone like Razaleigh? He might be a more acceptable face, more acceptable than Muhyiddin, who is too closely associated with the Najib administration, which appears to have gone overboard in more ways than one.
But Razaleigh lacks grassroots support. Will he however enjoy a surge in popularity among Malaysians longing for change just like Abdullah Badawi did in the 2004 general election? But then, will Razaleigh be equally beholden to the power-brokers in the establishment who may put his name forward now?
As we saw in the last general elections, the majority of Malaysians want real change, not pseudo change that perpetuates the crony-capitalistic corrupt neoliberal system we have now. Many made the mistake of putting their faith in Abdullah Badawi, only to be bitterly disappointed with unfulfilled promises and extinguished expectations.
No doubt, the former leaders’ statements today have now piled on the pressure on the Najib administration ahead of a possible no-confidence vote (if it sees the light of day).
But do you trust these former leaders to promote a more democratic system with people-centred policies? Or are they more interested in removing Najib so that Umno-BN can perpetuate its rule?
We can thank Mahathir for being open and crystal clear about his intentions. He wants Umno to remain in power. For him, it is just get Najib out of the way, thank you very much, so that Umno won’t lose the next general election and we can return to (crony capitalism) business as usual – and maybe Mukhriz can move up.
(Isn’t it amazing how history repeats itself? In the 1990 general election, shortly before his death, an 87-year-old Tunku Abdul Rahman went all out in the election campaign to unseat Mahathir from power and replace him with Tengku Razaleigh. Today, a 90-year-old Mahathir is going all out to remove Najib from power – and who will take Najib’s place then? Razaleigh? Muhyiddin?)
Just be cautious where these guys are taking us. Sure, we can use them, as a matter of strategy, to press for the repeal of bad laws like Sosma and maybe to stem the outrageous corruption we see around us – just as they are using the people (they admit they need the support of the people) to further their own agenda.
At the end of the day, the majority of Malaysians want real change; the former leaders and power-brokers and business cronies don’t – or at least, not the type of far-reaching changes the majority want.
After all, these former leaders were in previous administrations that set in motion the train of events that led to the undermining of our institutions of government and the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few in Putrajaya. Look where we are today.
What do you think?