The Asian Voice

Malaysia is seeing a different Mahathir: Sin Chew Daily columnist

In his commentary, the writer urges Pakatan Harapan to live up to the expectations raised by the election results.

Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad arriving at his office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on 21 May 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR (SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The 14th general elections brought to a conclusion the long-standing ill feelings between Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and former premier Najib Razak straddling over the past 20 years.

While Mahathir and Anwar have returned to the core of political power in the form of reformers, former PM Najib is widely believed to have to spend some years behind bars.

Prior to GE14, many were skeptical about Mahathir as an interim PM. BN even accused him of trying to pass the baton to his own son and would not seek a royal pardon for Anwar, and might even make a high-profile comeback to Umno.

None of these predictions comes true.

Mukhriz has been sworn in as Kedah Menteri Besar and will not have a hand in the federal administration, while Mahathir has kept his promise to secure the full pardon for Anwar Ibrahim and accept Anwar into Pakatan Harapan (PH) leadership core.

If Mahathir were to return to Umno, he would not have strengthened the PH leadership structure and expand the presidential council.

Moreover, there is little prospect for Umno to stage a strong rebound anytime soon.

If his only objective of working with PH is to topple Najib, then he wouldn't have set up the Committee on Institutional Reforms and bring the derailed three branches of government back to the right track.

Experts in various fields and eminent individuals in the society are no fools. They feel the sincerity of the new PH government and are willing to echo the government's call to reform the nation.

In his first week, Tun Mahathir has indeed worked very hard to fix the mess left by the previous administration.

He really wants to do something for the nation and her people; otherwise he would not have gone this far at this advanced age.

Tun Dr Siti Hasmah has voiced her worry for her husband's health due to severe lack of sleep, as the PM has to browse through large amounts of government documents every night.

I have covered Tun Mahathir's news before, and he is definitely not the same man he was 20 years ago. He has exhibited full devotion to his job this time, and is willing to accept criticisms and suggestions.

He may have seen the changes taking place in politics and life that he longs to leave behind a true political legacy for the nation in his remaining years.

Indeed people are going after different things at different stages of life. We have no idea whether he is really remorseful for the damage he inflicted upon the national institutions in the past, but he is now giving his all to rectify the mistakes committed by his predecessor Najib.

That said, reforms should be implemented gradually and must not be rushed through.

Even with a whole string of swift actions he has so far taken - barring Najib and wife from leaving the country, suspending Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali, resignation of MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) chief Dzulkifli Ahmad, transfer of treasury sec-gen Mohd Irwan, etc. - no one has so far been detained without a trial.

Collecting evidences, including cash, gold bars, jewelleries, designer watches and luxury handbags, etc is the right thing to do before prosecuting the culprits.

Additionally, the unprofessional ways of doing things in government departments must be rectified.

For example, the vastly different attitudes of Registrar of Societies (ROS) towards Pakatan Harapan before and after the elections and other similar acts of shifting sides in the public sector, must be uprooted.

The prompt actions by Tun Mahathir will reinstate public faith in the country: restoring rule of law, removing 17,000 contract civil servants, and transfer of redundant workforce in civil sector to the private sector in a bid to cut down government expenditure.

Meanwhile, resolving the 1MDB issue will lighten the country's debts as the company's RM42.2 billion (S$14.24 billion ) debts will take 24 long years to settle.

With public and market confidence now restored, consumer sentiment will be boosted even without a stimulus package from the government, especially with the 6 per cent GST reduced to 0 per cent from June 1.

Economic prosperity will not only enrich the national coffers but will also check the rise of budgetary deficits.

It is good for Mahathir to change his mind not to helm the education portfolio because the prime minister should not take up a ministerial position as inscribed in the PH manifesto, not to mention his old age. This will allow him to focus on institutional and economic reforms and curtail corruption and abuse of power.

With uncertainties now brushed aside it is believed that Mahathir and Anwar will work together amicably. Anwar has reiterated his full support for the new PH government and will not rush to take over the PM post from Mahathir.

Mutual trust and patience are crucial factors for the stability of the PH administration.

With the new cabinet named, the new government will officially take over the administration of this country.

The country's future will be bright if PH loyally sticks to its principles and the public diligently watch over them.

Sin Chew Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.

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