2020 Is A Good Year For A Handover The Sooner The Better

QUESTION TIME | As 2020 rolls into view and we step on for the ride, we can say without any doubt whatsoever that one of the cherished aims of a bygone era, that of becoming a developed nation this year, has been dashed to pieces
Yes, we have known that Vision 2020 would not be achieved for some time now as the previous Barisan Nasional governed, dithered and slithered down a slippery slope, with the only hope that we would stop slipping and sliding away lying in the most major upset at the polls that we would ever see
And by God, that happened. History was made when Umno/BN was finally overthrown in May 2018 by an unlikely coalition which included Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s fledgeling Bersatu, which did abysmally poorly, winning just 13 seats out of 52 contested for a 25 percent win rate. Bersatu fared the worst among the Pakatan Harapan coalition partners and in the entire election by any party which contested so many seats
Still, the Harapan coalition kept to its promise to make Mahathir interim prime minister until Anwar Ibrahim was able and willing to take over and become the prime minister. Mahathir was sworn in as the prime minister in May 2018 and broke his promise to make way for Anwar when he became both willing and able in October 2018 by winning the Port Dickson parliamentary constituency with the highest ever majority

Things would not have been so bad if Mahathir had been a great prime minister - he was not. He overturned manifesto promises, he made racist statements while unfairly criticising Malays and calling them lazy, he did hardly any of the reforms that Harapan had promised in the manifesto, and he is actively playing the Ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy) line he advocated during his previous incarnation
Mahathir has talked about the necessity to keep some legislations, backed off from promises to sign international human rights accords, attended congresses such as the one about Malay dignity which threatened to widen the racial divide like it has not been for a long time, and given rather flippant and inconsistent answers when asked about the succession
He appears not to know the dire consequences of his actions, both to the nation and the political survival of Harapan. One wonders if that is because of his ripe old age of 94, when faculties would have declined considerably
His Bersatu candidate in the Tanjung Piai by-election suffered a massive, unprecedented defeat by a ruling party, indicating beyond a shadow of a doubt that he enjoyed neither Malay nor non-Malay support, leaving him between a rock and a hard place. And Harapan, hopelessly, sits there too
Mahathir said manifesto promises could not be fulfilled because the coalition did not expect to win but instead has embarked on a massive effort at wealth distribution from government holdings to others and a revival of several projects in the tens of billions of ringgit which he promised to abolish in the wake of the election victory
His cabinet ministers have little or no authority to carry out reforms and their authorities have been largely subsumed to the controversial Daim Zainuddin - his partner and friend of many decades - whose role in government and business is rather controversial, to say the least
An example of some projects revived includes the RM44 billion East Coast Rail Link project. This link will have no economic impact unless China uses it to tranship goods in either direction by moving them between Port Klang and Kuantan to save shipping costs. Even Daim, who renegotiated the contract (Why? Ask Mahathir) admitted there will be losses for years
The announcement of this had no major details - nothing even about that RM20 billion that was paid to an overseas company directly from borrowings obtained from China. No transparency, no governance, no accountability, no explanation. This, in New Malaysia
The other was the RM140 billion Bandar Malaysia project. Just taking into account the undervaluation of the land, this could cause losses to the government of over RM50 billion
Soon, the outcome for the various bids for Plus Expressways will be announced. Yes, there may be toll reduction of up to 18 percent, but most bids want an extension of the toll concession period by 20 years, more than the remaining period of 18 years
The value of that extension is therefore worth at least the current value of Plus, which is RM30-40 billion. That’s effectively giving away that much of money to entrepreneurs and no prizes for guessing from whose camp they will come from
It would not be wrong to say there is much despair in the air in the New Year, that confidence has been and continues to be extremely low in the country, among both citizens and foreigners. This is amply reflected in the value of the currency and the stock market
The only way this will change is if the PM is changed according to the promise made to all Malaysians. Malaysians must demand that Mahathir keeps his promise
Around the time that a deal was going to be made to admit Mahathir and his party into Harapan, and for him to become interim prime minister in 2017, I wrote an article for Malaysiakini entitled “Can Mahathir be trusted?”Here are some extracts from that piece: “If anyone takes the trouble to remember what this man did and stood for, he would be mad to think that Mahathir is the solution - he was, and is the problem. Without him and his 22 years of misrule, Malaysia would not have descended into what it is today
“Mahathir was accountable to no one. Not the people, not the party, not the judges. He could do almost anything he pleased and get away with it using the apparatus and machinery of control he had put in place
“He made opaque many decisions of government, putting anything marked secret by the government as secret under the law by removing the power of judges to judge even if the secret posed no danger to the country but only embarrassed the government and exposed its corrupt ways
“That was the legacy he left behind - and a leader who followed him used it to do nasty things, some worse than that by Mahathir. Now we expect Mahathir - the source of all this - to save us Malaysians from Najib
“Is that why Mahathir is sticking his neck out? For the good of the country? But remember he had his chance, 22 years of it. He bungled - all he did was to stay in power and do the greatest damage to the country ever by anyone, prime minister or not
“His goal now is not (just) to get into power but to ensure that whoever comes into power does not destroy him. As far as Mahathir is concerned, it is always about him - not Malaysia, not Malaysians, not even the Malays
“If only the opposition (then) thought like Mahathir and stayed focused on their goal - which is not to just remove Najib but to change the government for the better - they will stay well away from a man like Mahathir - his record is there for all to see. Instead, they have been seduced by the mantra, let’s get rid of Najib first
“If the opposition, in its strange state of amnesia, continues to forget to remember, they are going to lose their chance to heal this nation, their agenda hijacked by the one who was ultimately responsible for all this.”I would have been very happy to have been wrong in my assessment of Mahathir then. Not one word of my view of him has changed now
To put it bluntly, Mahathir has proven himself to be a great liability to this country, returning us to those old nasty days of Umno/BN style politics. His moves are already costing the country more than 1MDB and by the time he has finished, the damage will be very serious, much more than 1MDB
Mahathir has to go in 2020, no need to wait for Apec 2020, which is in November, as that is obviously an extension tactic. The sooner he goes, the better for the country. Speed is of the essence because wealth is already being transferred - to the wrong people
P GUNASEGARAM, editor-in-chief of Focus Malaysia, started working life as a science and maths teacher in 1977. - Mkini

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