Our former dictator still has some tricks up his sleeve. Mahathir is suddenly a leading contender for Pakatan’s candidate for prime minister. After repeatedly ruling himself out for the post, he now says he’s open to considering it. Surely, that couldn’t be his plan from the start!
Pakatan seems to have fully absolved Mahathir of his sins, but there’s a perilously thin line between magnanimity and moronic naivete. Has Mahathir ever expressed regret or remorse over his gross misconduct in office? When I read the Malaysiakini headline “I have repented – Mahathir’s confession“, I was expecting a bombshell. Can this really be possible? Has the man so infatuated with Sinatra’s “My Way” turned a new leaf?
Nope. Mahathir did say he had “repented” (or insaf), but he was responding to detractors apparently urging him to turn to God (you can watch the video for yourself). At no point did he elaborate on what he repented for. It was a typical Mahathir statement – heavy on drama, light on substance.
While Malaysiakini’s headline was entirely misleading, it was not surprising in the least. The pro-opposition media has thrived for years by telling Pakatan supporters what they want to hear – as opposed to what they need to hear. They’re perpetually searching for a ‘confession’ from Mahathir, but all they’ve been getting are evasion and omission.
Undeterred, Pakatan officials are fond of arguing that Mahathir’s newfound alliance with the opposition proves his repentance. But repentance is quite different from opportunism. Mahathir saw a weak, divided, directionless opposition and he simply pounced. And Pakatan leaders, like a gaggle of desperate housewives, enthusiastically embraced their former abuser. He played them, and they let him play them.
But make no mistake: Mahathir is still the Mahathir we knew decades ago. The man whose police brutally beat down protesters in the streets and arrested opposition leaders. The man who presided over a period of massive corruption scandals, overpriced megaprojects, and unbridled cronyism. The man who hollowed out the judiciary, and concentrated power in himself and his friends.
How can we tell? The surest sign of Mahathir’s non-repentance was his remarks to the Nikkei Asian Review. Directing his fire at Najib, he said, “The prime minister has become too powerful.” Then without a hint of irony, he added, “I was powerful, but I didn’t abuse my powers. That is why I was re-elected five times.”
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I think Mahathir has drifted so far into the fantasy world of his own making that he can no longer discern between truth and falsehood. But the question is, why are Pakatan leaders buying into the obvious sham that Mahathir is selling? How can they look themselves in the mirror every day?
It was not too long ago that Pakatan leaders hated Mahathir and everything he stood for. Now they say his experienced leadership is needed to bring democratic reforms to this country. You must be kidding me. By Pakatan’s warped logic, arsonists should be firefighters, sexual predators should be sexual crime investigators, and Donald Trump should be anointed the foremost authority on the English language (see covfefe).
Malaysians should not have to put up with this level of stupidity – or unrepentant dictators. Mahathir may not have apologized but let me issue my own apology of sorts: I’m sorry that we let Mahathir run the country for 22 years. I’m sorry that there are still people out there who think it’s a good idea to return him to power. It is they who have to repent for their moral and intellectual bankruptcy.