Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What now, Pak Lah?

I am re-producing an article written by Oon Yeoh published in TodayOnline.com for the benefit of readers following the Dr M-Pak Lah saga.

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Wednesday, 21 June 2006

WHAT NOW, PAK LAH?


What PM Abdullah can do to silence Dr M and his critics

Following former Premier Mahathir Mohamad's criticisms against his successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the mainstream media did its job and ran news reports of overwhelming support for the Prime Minister.

An avalanche of critical commentary pieces against Dr Mahathir followed suit. It was interesting to see senior editors, who used to hail Dr Mahathir as a visionary leader, now calling his mega-projects wasteful.

Columnists who used to praise and encourage Dr Mahathir's frank and outspoken manner now say he should tone down his opinions and retire gracefully. Reading such articles reminded me of the saying: "Those who live by the sword, die by the sword."

Using the state-controlled media to demonise the opposition is a tactic perfected by Dr Mahathir while he was in power. Now, he's getting a taste of his own medicine.

But far from backing off, the support for Prime Minister Abdullah by government leaders and the media has only spurred Dr Mahathir to become even more combative.

In the coming months, you will see Dr Mahathir up the ante. As a one-man shadow cabinet, Dr Mahathir is more effective in demanding accountability from the government than all the opposition parties combined.

The fact that he has managed to single-handedly force the government to respond to his questions regarding various issues will only embolden him to pose tougher questions in the future.

Although he often complains about the press ignoring him, the reality is that whenever Dr Mahathir holds his no-holds-barred press conferences, his comments will be reported.

In addition, he can — and has been using — other avenues including the Internet. He recently gave an interview to the online news site Malaysiakini, which he used to demonise when he was in power.

During the Perdana Peace Forum, he invited bloggers to cover the event. He has also had his open letter to the government posted on a pro-United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) website.

Another tactic was to get his former press secretary Matthias Chang to make statements that were too inflammatory for even Dr Mahathir to utter — such as Mr Chang's recent accusation that Mr Abdullah's son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin, and The New Straits Times deputy chairman Kalimullah Hassan, exert inappropriate influence over government policies.

So what is Dr Mahathir up to? One theory is that he wants to hasten Mr Abdullah's departure from the political scene and ensure that he is a one-term prime minister.

Although Dr Mahathir has declared that he has neither the intention nor the power to do this, political observers will remember how Dr Mahathir, as a young politician, contributed to Malaysia's first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman's downfall after the deadly May 13, 1969, riots.

Unhappy with the Tunku's liberal policies, Dr Mahathir wrote a scathing open letter urging that he resign from office. The Tunku responded by sacking Dr Mahathir from Umno, but the open letter, which was disseminated widely within Umno, led to student demonstrations and marked the beginning of the end for the Tunku, who resigned a year later.

As political analyst Liew Chin Tong observed, while the critical remarks made to the press and posted on the Internet will not bring down a prime minister, Dr Mahathir's open attack on Mr Abdullah has crossed a psychological barrier, especially when Dr Mahathir's censure comes at a time when Pak Lah's (Mr Abdullah's nickname) popularity is on the wane.

The high hopes the people placed on Mr Abdullah, which propelled him to a massive landslide victory in the 2004 general election, are no longer there due to his flip-flops on police reforms, anti-corruption and other policy matters. The increases in petrol and electricity prices have also made the public unhappy.

The fact that the premier's son-in-law has risen incredibly fast in the political and corporate world has also meant Mr Abdullah is no longer immune to accusations of nepotism and cronyism.

So, what can Mr Abdullah do?

There is one way he can effectively neutralise Dr Mahathir's criticism, and it doesn't require any spin by his media operatives. It doesn't even require him to respond to Dr Mahathir's barbed comments.

All he has to do is fulfill the promises he made during his campaigns for the general election. If he fulfills his reform agenda, nothing Dr Mahathir says will matter, for Mr Abdullah will have the support of the people.

Oon Yeoh is a writer and commentator based in Kuala Lumpur.

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Note: The bold text were added by me to emphasize my agreement with Mr Yeoh on the points raised in his observation of Pak Lah's dicey political position vis-a-vis his first term in office as the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

As I've said so in an earlier post,
this is not about answering one man's questions.

This is all about regaining the trust and confidence of disillusioned and dejected Malaysians.

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4 Comments:

Blogger howsy said...

I was actually hoping to hear the immediate things that The Medicine Man should do, for example like doing this from Twin Towers, well at least to disperse off any future protestors, not like it is going to be possible anyway.

22/6/06 00:07  
Blogger Anak Merdeka said...

Howsy, you say, "future protestors" - err .. have you been gazing at your crystal ball?

22/6/06 14:54  
Blogger desiderata said...

Brudder howsy and Sisdar Anak M:

I think the Bombshell dropped by CASH in Sabah that willsnowball into a national BIGGIE to generate enough anger and rage for the Government to ANSWER TO ALL -- it's no more just to Dr Mahathir's 4blardy Qs, that's chicken feed, can be dollarised. "Selling sovereignty of NegaraKU" cannot be quantifioed in Ringgit and Sen -- we must NOT let the matter rest!

Blow up the horn, fellow bloggers. This is XXplosive. Someone says selling sand to Singapore to treason. Selling ICs to foreigners is double treason. After hanging followed by a sitting on the Electric Chair at RUMAH ss...?

22/6/06 18:06  
Blogger Anak Merdeka said...

Have they hit upon the right antidote to finally SHUT the old man up for good? Looks to me both sides are throwing up bucketfuls of s**t at each other!

I just wanna make sure I don't get hit by them fools. :(

And I wonder where the "elegantly silent" oppos are hiding now? Kena black-out by the media, AGAIN?

22/6/06 18:59  

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