Will Langkawi support Mahathir Mohamad in upcoming Malaysia election?: The Star columnist

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad gestures as he arrives for a rally ahead of the 14th general election on Malaysia's island of Langkawi, on April 15, 2018.
Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad gestures as he arrives for a rally ahead of the 14th general election on Malaysia's island of Langkawi, on April 15, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

In her commentary, the writer questions whether the people of the island, that former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad nurtured and made into a famous tourism destination, will vote to bring him back to government.

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Up till Sunday night, there were still some people who did not quite believe that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was serious about contesting the general election.

They thought he would change his mind at the eleventh hour.


These people obviously do not understand how deep and personal his fallout with Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has become.

The stage is now set for Malaysia's longest-serving Prime Minister to break his own 22-year record of holding the top job.

Pakatan Harapan's prime minister nominee chose Langkawi, where he had changed so many lives, to formally announce his candidature.

It was a sultry evening that was pregnant with symbolism as well as irony.

Once the most powerful man in Malaysia, Dr Mahathir now has to use the symbol of the party he tried and failed to kill off.

His candidacy was announced by PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of his one-time nemesis, who delivered a glowing tribute to the 92-year-old leader.

The choice of Dr Wan Azizah to affirm his candidature was also to show their commitment to each other, and that Dr Mahathir has the support of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from behind bars.

Can politics in Malaysia get any stranger?

Kedah already holds the record for producing two prime ministers and if things go well for Dr Mahathir, it may hold the record for producing the oldest one Malaysia has ever had.

The idea may seem strange, but Pakatan Harapan supporters find it perfectly okay, or at least that is what they say.

As Juhari Bulat, the Pribumi candidate for Ayer Hangat put it, the late Sultan of Kedah became the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in his 80s, so why can't Dr Mahathir become prime minister in his 90s?

There is a big difference actually - the prime minister's job is much more demanding than that of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.


And Dr Mahathir did look his age that evening as he let go of his usual ceramah litany of kleptocracy, failed state, bankrupt nation and corruption.

Given that Langkawi is like his second home and that the night belonged to him, he appeared rather shaky and could not quite remember the names of some of those on stage.

His spirit to unseat Najib is strong, but his age and health are factors that are not working out for him.

Moreover, it is hard to see how Dr Wan Azizah's speech and message that night could have convinced the Langkawi audience that she is deputy prime minister material.

Of those who spoke that night, only Pribumi president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin came closest to prime minister material, while Amanah president Mohamed Sabu was very amusing.

The event managed to draw quite a good crowd, but it was not the "lautan manusia" or sea of people claimed by Muhyiddin. Neither was it the type of crowd that is a harbinger of a Malay tsunami.

The audience was polite and respectful, but it was quite evident that many of them were curious spectators because each time the emcee tried to get them to join him in shouting "Reformasi!", most of them did not.

It was thus unsurprising that even before the ceramah was over, the Pakatan side was flooding social media with pictures of massive crowds and claiming the pictures were coming from Langkawi.

But it was untrue. The photos were crowd scenes from what appeared to be a DAP ceramah in Johor during the 13th General Election. There was even a PAS flag fluttering in one of the pictures.

Among all the Pakatan partners, DAP is most anxious to convince its Chinese audience that a Malay tsunami is on the way and that "Tun Mah", as they call Dr Mahathir, will be the one to make it happen.

DAP is heavily invested in Dr Mahathir because they need the Malay tsunami to make the Chinese voters believe that the Government will fall and persuade them to come along in greater numbers.

Dr Mahathir flew into Langkawi a day earlier for a packed two-day programme - a breakfast ceramah for some locals, dialogue with the Indians, dinner dialogue with the Chinese, officiating a football club and then the big announcement.

"I cannot say who will win, but it will be a good fight," said a local Chinese community figure.

Will Langkawi be the staging point for Dr Mahathir to topple Najib? Can the odd pairing of the two doctors persuade Malaysians to go along?

Dr Mahathir is loved and respected in Langkawi. The people will always be grateful for how he turned their island into a world-famous tourism destination.

Will the people of Langkawi return the favour and deliver victory to him in his hour of need?

So many questions and so few answers from this beautiful island.

But there has been no sign of the promised Malay tsunami.

Initially, we were told it would become evident once Parliament is dissolved. Now, we are told that it will only happen once the candidates are known on nomination day.

Dr Mahathir does not have much time left before the polls to bring on the Malay tsunami.

The writer writes frequently on Malaysian current affairs. The Star is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media entities.