, , , , ,

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang’s latest gambit to table a motion of confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has certainly garnered a lot of attention. He says he is doing it to “save” Malaysia but, of course, there’s more than meets the eye.

In the first place, Dr Mahathir has a comfortable majority in Parliament and is not facing an imminent threat to his position. True, there’s the pending succession issue but it is an issue that has already been decided within Pakatan Harapan. Dr Mahathir himself, if his words can be taken at face value, has repeatedly said he would step down after the APEC summit and hand power to his designated successor, Anwar Ibrahim.

And if Hadi himself has so much confidence in the prime minister, why didn’t he support the prime minister on issues like ICERD and the International Criminal Court which Dr Mahathir’s administration brought before Parliament in 2018? And why, if Hadi is such an enthusiastic supporter of Mahathir’s leadership, did he work with UMNO to engineer the defeat of PH candidates in every by-election since Mahathir became prime minister?

As well, didn’t PAS insist, not so long ago, that Dr Mahathir was nothing more than a puppet of the DAP? And yet, here he is now vying for the presidency of the Mahathir forever fan club.

Hadi’s so-called confidence motion is obviously not intended to support Mahathir but to cause mischief by upending the succession plan and dividing PH. It might be presented as a motion of confidence in the prime minister but it is, in reality, a mendacious manoeuvre to destroy the ruling multiracial coalition and replace it with a Malay unity government, a government in which PAS will, of course, figure prominently.

Hadi’s antics shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, this is a politician who, at one time or another, has been in bed with every other party – Malay and non-Malay, Muslim and non-Muslim – in a desperate bid to gain power. To suggest that such behaviour is unprincipled would be an egregious understatement.

But then, all this political manoeuvring has little to do with principles; what currently animates many of the politicians involved in this so-called confidence motion is bigotry, plain and simple.

When Hadi, for example, talks about “saving” Malaysia, he’s really talking about erasing the drubbing that the old guard Malay political elites received at the last election. To men like Hadi (and Mahathir), the political configuration that emerged after GE14 is unacceptable because it gives the non-Malays (and the DAP in particular) too much of a role in government.

Hadi and his ilk have never accepted the idea of Malaysia as a truly multi-ethnic polity. To them, every gain for the non-Malays is automatically seen as a setback for the Malays that must be opposed. In their own minds, they are locked in an existential struggle with no room for genuine compromise.

The increased non-Malay representation in Parliament following GE14 and the subsequent “loss” of key positions in cabinet (especially that of finance minister) and in government was a bridge too far for bigots long accustomed to nothing more than a BN-type token and toothless non-Malay representation in government.

The frequent references emanating from both sides of the aisle to the effect that the Malays have lost their power and their dignity, that they are now weak, that their culture and religion are under threat, that the DAP is calling the shots, etc. are all reflective of the underlying rejection of any meaningful power-sharing arrangement with non-Malays.

It is this shared bigotry that keeps the whole idea of a Malay unity government constantly simmering in the background and which provides the context for Hadi’s confidence motion.

Mahathir, if he was truly committed to PH and the succession plan, would have firmly rejected the poisoned chalice that Hadi offers, but as always, he hides behind innuendo and ambiguity. He denies but never strongly enough to dispel; he confirms but leaves enough room for doubt; he endorses but immediately negates; he dismisses publicly but meets privately. It is his way of signalling his unhappiness with the present situation and with Anwar, never mind that it is terribly destabilizing.

And, of course, there’re large doses of self-interest, self-preservation and self-aggrandizement at play behind the confidence motion as well.

Some think they are irreplaceable while others are willing to sell out their own parties to save themselves from lengthy prison terms. Yet others are driven by ambition; they see themselves as deserving of the top job though they are long past, what Dr. Laurence J. Peter, in his 1968 book titled “The Peter Principle,” called their respective level of incompetence.

First, they argue that Mahathir must stay to help Malaysia reduce the national debt. Now they say that Mahathir is needed to rebuild the economy following the novel coronavirus outbreak, that he is needed even after the APEC summit to keep Malaysia competitive. What a load of hogwash! The more they argue that only Mahathir can solve all our problems, the more they underscore their own irrelevance, insignificance and ineptitude.

It is doubtful if we’ve ever had so many self-serving egocentric leaders masquerading as patriots. Whether or not history will conclude that GE14 brought out the worst in Malaysian politicians, one thing is certain: Hadi is the most disagreeable of them all.

For all his years in politics, he has little to brag about. Under his leadership, PAS has fared poorly in the states they govern. They have no idea how to run a modern state, no economic agenda and cannot even manage their state budgets without relying on handouts from Putrajaya. And when they get an infusion of funds, they spend it on fancy cars for their underperforming politicians.

All Hadi has to offer is religious radicalism and racial polarization that pits Malays against non-Malays, Muslims against non-Muslims. It is exactly the kind of formula that’s guaranteed to quickly turn Malaysia into just another failed state.

It is not for no reason that Malaysians have never trusted either Hadi or his party to rule the country through 14 general elections. The only way he’ll get in is through the back door by stoking division and dissension and, of course, pushing asinine initiatives like a motion of confidence in the prime minister.

Hadi claims he wants to save Malaysia; a more important question is who will save Malaysia from Hadi?

[Dennis Ignatius | Free Malaysia Today | Kuala Lumpur |18th February 2020]