Dear Dr M You Should Set A Date To Step Down Firmly And Irrevocably

QUESTION TIME | Dear Dr M,I write this letter to you because you are the only one who can do anything about this. If you care for this country, as many people still think you do, you will honour the promise that you have repeatedly made over the last three years. To do otherwise may well spell disaster for all of us
When you first re-entered politics after your chosen man to become prime minister, Najib Abdul Razak, stole billions of ringgit from the country, making our nation the biggest kleptocracy the world has ever seen, you swore that your only aim was to remove him as prime minister, not to return as one. You had 22 years as PM - that was more than enough, you did not need another chance
But then Pakatan Harapan, led by your former bitter foe Anwar Ibrahim, in all its wisdom or lack of it, unanimously decided that you will be the coalition's candidate for the prime minister's post if the coalition makes it to Putrajaya

The announcement was made by Harapan secretariat chief Saifuddin Abdullah. Saifuddin named Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail (below) as the candidate for the deputy prime minister's post, according to The Star on Jan 7, 2018, a bare four months before GE14
Importantly, the agreement also stipulated that Harapan will apply for a royal pardon for Anwar if the coalition wrests Putrajaya from Barisan and that Anwar will be made the prime minister if the royal pardon is obtained. In other words, you were an interim prime minister - until the royal pardon was obtained and Anwar could legally become PM
You were supposed to make way for him. Anwar was pardoned on May 16, but you did not make any move. Suddenly you wanted time - to put things right
Couldn't Anwar? Earlier, your close friend and confidante of decades, Daim Zainuddin, had said in an interview with Singapore’s Straits Times that it would be foolish to make Anwar prime minister immediately after he became a member of Parliament. That helped to set the stage to extend an interim arrangement to two years
You were hailed as the person who won the elections by some people, including Daim, when victory was achieved on May 9 last year, but that’s not really true. Your party won just 13 out of 52 seats contested, all in Peninsular Malaysia - the worst win rate - 25 percent - of any party in the coalition. PKR won over 80 percent of seats contested in Peninsular Malaysia, DAP over 90 percent and Amanah 50 percent. PKR had more than three times the number of seats your party won, at 47, DAP 42 and Amanah 11
Yes, all parties contributed to the victory of the Harapan coalition, but truth be told: PKR contributed the most and then DAP, and your party’s contribution was a very, very distant third. While yours is a Malay party, the Malays largely rejected your party, voting instead for Umno, PAS and PKR, among which Malay votes were largely distributed
You had no qualms about taking credit and in the euphoria of victory, people were blind to the truth - many of them still are. Harapan’s win dated back to work done from 1998, part of it against you
Still, the coalition kept its promise and you were installed as prime minister. The coalition thought - wrongly - that you would be a more consensual prime minister than you were, given your poor performance in the polls and the need for support from other parties to be PM. How wrong they were
That lady of integrity and honour, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar’s wife, was considered for the post of interim prime minister, but some parties, sources say it was the DAP and you admitted that too, wanted you instead because you were, well, more forceful, among other considerations
Wan Azizah actually had a chance to become prime minister - the King had offered it to her as the representative of the largest party in the coalition. theSun Daily and other papers reported that Anwar revealed this. She made a promise and she kept to it
Which is more than we can say for you. You agreed to be an interim prime minister and promptly dishonoured the statement by not making way for Anwar, but instead said that you needed two years to put things right. That’s a breach of promise
What does 'interim' mean? The Oxford dictionary defines it as an adjective before a noun - intended to last for only a short time until somebody/something more permanent is found. And it gave an example: “The vice-president took power in the interim period before the election.”No matter how you and your supporters spin it, it was a breach of promise. But it certainly looked like Anwar was prepared to wait - for two years - and you repeatedly mentioned this time period. He was prepared to wait because, for better or worse, he trusted you then, when he allowed you into Harapan. He must be quite wary of you by now, and I don’t blame him
If you are in any doubt that you mentioned two years, let me quote three news reports
According to Bernama, you said in Bandar Seri Begawan on Sept 3, 2018, that you will honour the agreement by Harapan partners that you will be interim prime minister, with the time frame mentioned as two years, before handing over the reins to Anwar. You said this at a gathering with Malaysians residing in Brunei at a hotel, in reply to a question from one of the guests who had voiced worry about history repeating itself on the choice of the successor
You reiterated this two months later on Nov 3, 2018, saying you will keep your promise to eventually relinquish the prime minister’s role in two years. “I’m holding firm to my promise; I will hand over this role (of prime minister). That is my promise,” you said after chairing the Pakatan Harapan presidential council meeting
Then, on Dec 30, 2018, you told Channel News Asia the same thing: “I think he (Anwar) feels comfortable that he will succeed me, maybe in two years, I don’t know... I’m not going to be the prime minister until the next election.” But you craftily injected some uncertainty - “until the next election”
Since then, you have become increasingly vague about the date for succession, while promising to hand over to Anwar. But you have reneged on another promise - two years - after breaking the “interim” promise
Then you dropped that bombshell on Sept 27, when Bernama reported from New York that you would bow out as prime minister before the next general election, which can be as far out as mid-2024
“I promise that I would step down before the next election and give way to another candidate. So, I may have at the most three years perhaps,” you said at a dialogue held at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. During those three years, you said you needed to accomplish a few things
Do you realise the enormity of what you said? Or is this all a game for you? You are breaking yet another promise. Are you aware of what you are doing to the country
The uncertainty over the succession is not only a breach of promise to Anwar and the electorate, but it has injected considerable uncertainty into the country
Will you allow Anwar to succeed you? If you don’t, what measures will you take to stop him? Surely you don’t expect Anwar to keep quiet while you do all this. No one knows what kind of trouble this will cause the country and the upheavals it will create. Which is why the ringgit is weakening, ours is about the worst-performing stock market in Asia, and the property market is in deep doldrums
Dear Dr M, for better or for worse, you have been PM for 22, no, almost 23 years and 4 months - that’s long enough for anyone - and you are 94 years old. That’s enough opportunity for anyone. It’s time for you to hand the reins over to Anwar and give him a chance to do what you could not - to unite this country and take it forward collectively so that all can progress and income disparities can be reduced
I appeal to your good sense to not plunge this country into disaster by breaking your promise to the nation and frustrating the genuine aspirations of all Malaysians, as reflected in the election results, and give a fighting chance for this country to gain its place in the world and give a better life to all its people
The only way you can now do this, is to set a firm date for you to step down, as agreed, as soon as possible and allow Anwar to peaceably take your place, thus removing all uncertainty as to the succession plan for our beloved country, instead of needless strife and continuing concerns as to our future direction
That’s the only way to protect our hard-earned democratic space earned at the last elections when we collectively overthrew a corrupt, authoritarian and kleptocratic government. Your departure will help us consolidate these gains and give rise to a more consensual, caring and competent government
Three years from now is over four years and four months too long from your original promise to this country
P GUNASEGARAM is the editor-in-chief of Focus Malaysia. “Dear Dr M” will be an occasional feature to highlight and provoke discussion on things that only the prime minister can do something about. - Mkini

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