Former Malaysia PM Mahathir is a 'PM slayer', writes academic in new book

Former Malaysia Prime Minister Tin Mahathir was described as a "PM Slayer".
Former Malaysia Prime Minister Tin Mahathir was described as a "PM Slayer". PHOTO: THE STAR PUBLICATION

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad is akin to a "PM Slayer", writes Professor James Chin of the University of Tasmania.

Prof Chin, in his book Malaysia Post-Mahathir: A Decade Of Change, said that Tun Mahathir had brought down two prime ministers and was tackling a third.

He added in the book that Dr Mahathir was responsible for the downfall of Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, and was calling for Prime Minister Najib Razak to step down.

In the book that was released on Monday (Nov 9), Prof Chin said that Dr Mahathir has maintained his influence in Malaysian politics in order to ensure the "continued relevance of Umno and ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy)".

"Mahathir's greatest political fear is reforms that will promote equal citizenship rights. For Mahathir, keeping a race-based political system is the key to keeping Umno in power, and in the long-term this allows the creation of a family political dynasty, the Mahathir dynasty," Prof Chin wrote.

He also said Dr Mahathir is the greatest obstacle to non-ethnic based politics in contemporary Malaysia.

Prof Chin wrote in a chapter that in the decade after his retirement, there "is little doubt that Mahathir still sees himself as the ultimate arbitrator of Malaysian politics. For him, Malaysia belongs to Umno, an Umno with his imprint".

"He is the single most important roadblock to anyone in Malaysia who wishes to break free from an ethnic-based (and increasingly Islamic-based) political system.

"In Mahathir's worldview, he sees himself as the only politician who created modern Malaysia and his model, based on Malay supremacy, is the only model applicable to Malaysia.

"Mahathir is one of the strongest supporters of race-based politics in Malaysia and does not see racial discrimination against the non-Malay population as a problem.

"For Mahathir, Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) is the cornerstone of Malaysian politics and of political stability in Malaysia. In his view, Najib's 1Malaysia not only undermines Malay supremacy but gives false hope to the non-Malay community that they may get political equality."

Prof Chin also said in the book edited by him and Professor Joern Dosch of the University of Rostock, Germany, that Dr Mahathir was trying to ensure "that his political dynasty stays intact" through his son, Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir.

"Mahathir, who turned 90 in 2015, wanted Mukhriz to be elected vice-president of Umno in 2014 to have a shot at the prime ministership. Since that attempt failed, getting rid of Najib would be one way of giving Mukhriz another chance to get to the top," Prof Chin wrote in the chapter A Decade Later: The Lasting Shadow Of Mahathir.

Prof Chin added that any attempt for Malaysia to move towards a merit-based economy will be met with opposition from Dr Mahathir, similar to that experienced by Datuk Seri Najib with the New Economic Model (NEM).

He added the NEM was an attempt to shift affirmative action from being ethnically-based to being needs-based.

Prof Chin said this shift would make Malaysia more competitive, as well as market and investor friendly.

He said this was a push towards a merit-based economy that "went against everything that Mahathir had stood for" as it was an attempt to move away from the racial approach used under the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Prof Chin said that Dr Mahathir and Malay rights group Perkasa saw this as a "frontal attack on the Malay special rights".

"Dr Mahathir believed that without the NEP, there was a real possibility that the racial riots of May 13 may erupt again."

The book claimed that some Malaysians were starting to reject or were ambivalent about racial identities.

The Malaysian sociopolitical environment has been described as being "constructed in principally ethnic terms", while ethnicity has been a predominant "framework for interpreting Malaysian society and politics".

Malaysia Post-Mahathir: A Decade Of Change will be launched on Monday at Sunway University.

It is published by Singapore-based publishers Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Private Limited.