Remember how Mahathir often liked to say that the major decisions of his administration were often made after consulting his Cabinet ministers and obtaining their consensus?
Mohamed Tawfik, the son of the late deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, has a different take on this.
Tawfik was dropped as an Umno MP in 1990. When asked how that happened, he explains in the cover story of The Edge, Options pullout (for the week of 26 January 2009):
Mahathir called me into his office before the election. I was with my journalist friends when he called, so they started joking that I was going to be made a deputy minister.
Sorry to disappoint them… I went to see Mahathir and the first thing he said was, ‘You know, not every son can be like the father.’…
I thought to myself, bloody insult!
Then he continued, ‘All of my backbenchers have to be people who stand up when I walk in, thump the tables and say, long live Mahathir. And my ministers are not supposed to think for themselves. I think, and they do what I want them to do.’
I’m thinking that this man does not seem to have a very high opinion of his ministers. He actually says, ‘I don’t want intelligent, honest, hardworking people in politics. People like you should be in business.’ Well, that was a backhanded compliment. He told me to come and see him after the election to see what they could do together.
I said, ‘Datuk Seri, in all honesty, I don’t have any capital to start any business and I’m not tuned in to making money.’
He said, ‘After elections, you come and talk.’
I felt he didn’t give me enough time to mull it over. I thought to myself, what could I say to him that would buy me some time and collect my thoughts? So I said, ‘What about Datuk Shahrir (Abdul Samad, now minister of domestic affairs)?’
And he went on for 40 minutes. He didn’t like Shahrir.
So, while he was talking, I made notes.
After he stopped talking, he asked if there was anything else.
I said, ‘Datuk Seri, the best years of my life in politics were when I was fighting you.’ And then, I walked out. It gave me a big smile to walk out, and I felt good doing it.