Coincidentally or not, two former group editors of the major Umno-owned papers uploaded commentaries in their respective blogs – and at about the same time too – on the Tun’s hand grenade lobbed at Najib Razak.
They are the Tokoh-Tokoh Wartawan Zainuddin Maidin (2006 awardee) and Kadir Jasin (2011), both seen in popular public perception as being ‘close’ to Dr Mahathir, what with all three being Kedahans.
So why did Dr M choose to rock the boat at this particular juncture?
Theory #1: To create a counter-current wave at the Umno assembly
“Harus diingatkan bahawa Mahathir membuat pengumuman ini menjelang Perhimpuan Agung Umno tidak lama lagi dan ketika mesyuarat-mesyuarat Umno bahagian sedang berlangsung di seluruh negara.
“Ini adalah suatu strategi Mahathir yang akan membangunkan gelombang baru dari kocak arus yang tidak kelihatan di permukaan dalam kehilangan keyakinan suatu bangsa yang merasa terumbang-ambing dalam kepimpinan yang tidak jelas dan tidak tegas untuk menjamin masa depan mereka di negara sendiri.
“Gelombang ini diharap akan melanda Perhimpunan Agung Umno.” (in Zamkata blog)
Theory #2: To straighten out the blur and clueless Najib
Pak Kadir’s take is that the Tun had indeed penned a scathing and open criticism, and not only that but “the PM deserves every word that Dr Mahathir hurled at him”.
“Tetapi sesiapa saja yang membacanya akan mendapati bahawa ia lebih daripada teguran. Ia berupa kritikan paling tajam dan paling terbuka…” (in The Scribe, A. Kadir Jasin’s blog)
Kadir blogged, “Ke mana pun beliau (Dr M) pergi dan di mana pun beliau berada, pelbagai pihak ‘mengadu’ mengenai tindak-tanduk Mohd Najib yang kabur dan kacau”.
Elaborating on the ex-premier’s dissatisfaction, Kadir toldTMI: “In the early stages, Tun would make an effort to see Najib about these problems. But over the years, he realised that the person he thought would listen to him was not really listening”.
Thus it has come to a point where Tun’s patience with Najib finally snapped.
Giving an interview to Malaysiakini, Kadir said: “When Najib took over, he gradually distanced himself from Mahathir. He did not take Mahathir’s advice in many areas”.
“If he said he regretted (choosing Najib), I believe he has every reason to say so,” Kadir added.
Dr Mahathir’s chillingrecall of history… repeating itself?
The passages penned by the Tun below, relating why he’s withdrawing his support from Najib, are ominous:
(i) Dr M chided Tunku … Tunku withdrew from the political scene
“Apabila YTM Tunku membuat beberapa dasar dan tindakan yang tidak disenangi oleh ramai orang Melayu, saya menulis surat menegur Tunku.
“Walaupun kerananya saya dipecat, tetapi YTM Tunku meletak jawatan sebagai Perdana Menteri. Mungkin bukan kerana teguran saya, tetapi hakikatnya Tunku mengundur diri.” (in Che Det blog)
(ii) Dr M chided Abdullah Badawi … AAB resigned
“Demikian juga dengan Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Mungkin kerana teguran, mungkin kerana prestasi buruk Pilihanraya ke 12. Tetapi hakikatnya Tun Abdullah juga letak jawatan.”
(iii) Dr M himself was chided … he resigned
“Saya sendiri pun letak jawatan. Sebahagian dari sebabnya ialah kerana saya dengar bisik-bisik yang menyoal “Bila lagi orang tua ini akan pergi.” Saya percaya jika saya tidak letak jawatan, bisik akan jadi jeritan.”
The leitmotif above of Resignation-Resignation-Resignation cannot be missed, what more with Tun being such an experienced and consummate writer. The parallelism is repeated thrice as a powerful rhetorical device.
Furthermore, it is obvious that Dr M’s piece was written with calculated deliberation. A major blow against the sitting prime minister does not come about without a whole lot of thought and strategizing behind it.
What’s motivating Mahathir?
Zam’s observation may lend an insight. It is the Malay Dilemma all over again – “kehilangan keyakinan suatu bangsa yang merasa terumbang-ambing dalam kepimpinan yang tidak jelas dan tidak tegas untuk menjamin masa depan mereka di negara sendiri”.
By the way, the Tan Sri wrote a bestselling biography titledMahathir di Sebalik Tabir. So we can say that Zam is a practiced Mahathir watcher.
Even last year Kit Siang contesting Gelang Patah had already raised Dr M’s hackles. The DAP juggernaut has since then rolled all the way to Johor, Umno’s place of birth while Christianity – the new ethos of DAP the Ubah party – is resurgent in a strident, evangelical form.
The likes of Isma and its fellow NGOs are stoking the Malay-Muslim sense of insecurity and feeling besieged. Umno under Najib has lost the plot. Only Tun can seize back the national narrative because he is such a dedicated if not dogged ideologue.
Racial and religious tensions on the rise
Speaking to the press after the controversy broke, Dr M sought to explain his drastic actions:
“‘Ini bukan isu peribadi. Apa yang dilakukan Najib tidak memanfaatkan negara… ketegangan kaum dan agama meningkat, orang tidak hormat kepada Perlembagaan lagi.
His line “orang tidak hormat kepada Perlembagaan lagi” is telling. Dr M is concerned about the “social contract” and erosion of Article 153, especially in the wake of Najib’s harakiri initiatives like the NUCC.
Tun is a moderate at heart
Meanwhile, Kadir revealed how “pelbagai pihak ‘mengadu’ [kepada Tun] mengenai tindak-tanduk Mohd Najib yang kabur dan kacau [itu]“.
Najib is not much better than his brother Nazir in their grasp, or more accurately, inability to menghayati jiwa Melayu – the roh Melayu which Dr M has in spades.
“We will continue to be identified by race because the moderates in society dare not rebut what is being said by the extremists in the society,” he told reporters a mere couple of days ago (16 Aug 2014).
Dr M is in touch with the frustrations of the Malay grassroots. He believes Najib is “too soft” and too silent on contentious issues. The PM’s lack of firmness is allowing the extremists to get the upper hand and not to mention to falsely masquerade as ‘moderates’ – which they decidedly are not.
No rest for the nonagenarian
Under Najib’s watch, the BN multiracial formula went to pieces in the peninsula so that the only way to preserve Malay sovereignty is to invoke Umno-PAS unity. This last resort is the scenario unfolding in Selangor.
Although he is a hundred years old (okay, touching 90), Tun is nonetheless forced to roll up his sleeves because he – as well as we – can all see that the centre cannot hold.
Najib is not centred. He is neither here nor there. The country is spinning out of control and Najib is quite unable to provide the centre of gravity.
Dr Mahathir is taking action in order to save Malaysia.