Mahathir Returns to Power – Does it Matter?

Author/Source: Siti Kasim / Sahabat Rakyat Blog


This article is full text written by Siti Kasim, Human rights lawyer, specially for the forum in commemoration of the 18th Anniversary of Sahabat Rakyat entitled “Mahathir returns to power after regime change in the 14th General Election, A progression or regression of the democratic reform movement?” at Cathay Restaurant, Kulai on 21 September 2019.


I am anti regression, anti racism and pro progression. Always for progressive policies and acts.
GE14 resulted in the throwing out of the old kleptocratic, racist, divide and rule regime that has been in power for 60 years to be replaced hopefully by a more democratic, much more multi racial governing coalition. Is that not a progressive change? In my opinion it is.
Are having Mahathir, PPBM and AMANAH, two racially and religiously exclusive coalition partners; mean the change is regression of our reform movement?  No, it does not.
Progress comes in either incremental or step change. But it is progress, nonetheless. The American Revolution in 1775 gave Americans a nation of their own, so did Merdeka.  Still, it did not free slaves or gave women the right to vote.  The American civil war of 1861, almost a hundred years later, gave blacks their freedom but it still did not give them equality.  It took the civil rights act of 1964 to give them that equality. Women’s right to vote came only via the 19th constitutional amendment of 1920.
So, as you can see, progress is a continuous process.  History has also shown that democratic progresses are not led by politicians. Slavery proponents came from the abolitionist movement, women vote from the women’s suffrage movement and black equality via the civil rights movement. No politicians started out in the forefront of these movements all throughout history.
As I said in my recent article, politicians cater to the lowest common denominator.  If we leave it to politician to set the agenda of reform, we will be waiting-for-Godot forever. Reform will not come from Mahathir or any other politician. Reform will have to come from us, the progressive citizens of this Nation in an organized fashion, putting pressure and demanding change and making our presence always felt including at elections.
Take the current KHAT issue. Do you know, that Islamic and related classes for years 4, 5 and 6 totals approximately 128 hours versus science at 64 hours?  So, instead of revamping our education system that is Islamic-centric to one that is science-centric so that we have a progressive education, the Minister of Education add further Islamic related content into the curriculum.
We can say “this is Mahathirism” or we can say this is expected political gamesmanship of playing to the base in.  If there are no concerted pushback amongst progressive thinking citizenry, slowly but surely regressive forces will take over the agenda of change and move the country backward as has been the case the last 30 years, at least.
In fact, the Khat  issue proves that pushback works. Uncomfortable as it may sound, unpleasant as it maybe it had to be done. The pushback had the impact of stopping the khat implementation in its track. The pushbacks were successful. MoE had to backtrack. I can assure you, as with all half-assed initiative that it has now been revealed to be, this Khat becoming voluntary is now dead.  If it is not yet dead, we just keep vigilant and flog it to death whenever we see it rear it head up again.
In fact, I pretty much do not subscribe to the existence of “Mahathirism”. To me politics when it is focused on one person being the master manipulator for their own perverse agenda, is just “despotism” that’s all.  This did not start with Mahathir and it will not stop after Mahathir. We’ve had despotism before we voted the current coalition to power.  It just came in a different format.
The work of perfecting this federation that we call Malaysia is a continuous one.
So, with respect to the topic of this forum, my thesis is that democratic reform will always progress as long as progressive citizens continue to organize and engage in the political and governing process of this country. The more relevant question is how should such a process of keeping progress in reforming the Nation can be most effectively exercised?
Whilst I think political governance and legislation is the endgame in any reformation, it does not constitute the whole process. It is just one of the ways reform is achieved. But getting there, making sure the right candidate with the right agenda is elected and continuing engagement with elected representatives and government bureaucracy forms the whole spectrum of citizen reform movement.
May 9th has conclusively showed us that progressives, liberals and moderates can make big political change – if we work together. Make no mistake, GE14 was turned by almost 100% non-Malay and liberal Malay votes not just in Peninsula but also importantly Sabah and Sarawak. It was an election won by liberals. And this points us the way.
I believe this is the way to think. Mahathir or any other politician is not the concern per se. Reformation and progressive movement must continue to organize and work tirelessly whomever would be in power. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my thesis.
I believe the country is ready for a formal institutionalized nonpolitical citizen movement. And because of that myself and like minded friends has formed the Malaysian Justice for Action and Unity, MAJU, to be an all encompassing platform to unite progressive citizens of all races and religious background, network and organize on causes that will bring us towards this aim of reforms based on liberal, moderate and progressive values. We have a bold agenda at MAJU. We will be deliberate and strategic.
We are not just any other NGO working on a narrow cause. Our activities are a means to and end. We want to change the social, economic, education and political discourse and build the roadmap and the endgame of this Nation. The endgame being a progressive, liberal, moderate and scientifically educated modern Malaysia. And we think we know how to achieve that. In order to do do that, we need real Malaysian citizens to back us up. To stand together with us as Supporters. No longer faceless and anonymous but proud to embrace being liberals, moderates and progressives, and just Malaysians. We want Supporters to stand by the courage of their conviction and put their name and money where their mouths are.
I would like to end by urging everyone to join MAJU as Supporters and work hard at getting others to join as Supporters. Time to organize and stand together in an uncompromising voice and demand a progressive Nation. We will MAJU together for Malaysia.
Thank You.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jason Borneo

    We must work hard to get more people to join MAJU!

    1. Mr 007

      jason, please contact us on the direct line. lets find a solution. maybe you can help

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