Malaysia’s Man of the Hour

THE doctor is back in the house and the air outside feels fresh again. It has been a week of euphoria and awe since the world’s oldest prime minister returned to his old job.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has wasted no time in making sweeping changes to eradicate corruption and bring back the people’s trust in the government.

He has restored stability by naming the key ministers in charge of Finance, Home and Defence ministries and enhanced the credibility of the new government by setting up the Team of Eminent Persons.

As heads of key government institutions continue to roll, people are regaining the long-lost feeling of proud Malaysians again.

And why not? After years of making the headlines for the wrong reasons, in one fell swoop, Malaysia has become an exemplary democracy of the world. Yes, it was a revolution but one that was so cool.

Malaysian voters threw out a government which refused to acknowledge its guilt and shame of the 1MDB scandal nor the reality that the people and businesses were suffering with the Goods and Services Tax.

Along with fear, there was too much mistrust and anger over the past administration’s blatant abuse of key institutions – the police, the MACC, government departments and the Election Commission.

And at a time when our electoral integrity was at an all-time low, the EC created unfair constituency boundaries, ignoring voters’ objections. It was obvious that race was the main factor in the latest delineations for Parliamentary and state seat boundaries.

In sheer contempt of Schedule 13 of Malaysia’s Constitution which prohibits malapportionment and gerrymandering, the sizes of the constituencies were rigged so ridiculously that the value of a voter in one was worth four or five in another.

Everything was stacked up against Malaysians who wanted a change in government after six decades of Barisan Nasional rule, more so the nine years under former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

In the run-up to the polls, the pent-up disgust was prevalent in the social media and reflected by the massive crowds at Pakatan Harapan rallies where Dr Mahathir made his rock star appearances. The people looked up to him as the man of the hour and the only person who could bring down Umno and Barisan Nasional.

Despite the huge media coverage for Najib and the insults and scorn heaped on Dr Mahathir, many people in the media realised that the tide was changing. Those who bothered to talk to people in the Malay heartland could sense the impending earthquake. Today, the media landscape seems to have undergone an abrupt change.

The irony is, the man who shut down three newspapers and undermined freedom of the press while in power for 22 years is the same one who is expected to free the media from its shackles.

Like others in the fraternity, I truly hope that we can move on and write without fear and favour from now on.

Dr Mahathir has already smashed so many political records, including being the oldest head of government, at the age of 93.

He holds the record as a PM who held his post for 22 years under a ruling coalition and returned to power 15 years later, by leading an opposition coalition to end the six-decade rule of the previous government.

But his biggest challenge may be to keep the balance and stability in a government represented by four parties of the Pakatan Harapan.

There are already murmurs of dissatisfaction over the remaining 20 Cabinet posts.

Two other major tasks are the total overhaul of the bloated civil service and a complete revamp of the education system.

The new PM must drastically reduce departments and unnecessarily created agencies with exorbitantly paid CEOs. While other countries are adopting the Internet of Things, Digitalisation, Artificial Intelligence and such, our departments are not even working interactively or even interconnected.

As for education, Dr Mahathir needs to introduce a new system to steer the country in the future. Technology is ever changing, and many of the courses taught in our universities are obsolete.

If in the past, the system was geared towards providing students with the necessary knowledge and skills to help them secure jobs, the future will depend on how students can learn on their own, aided by technology.

Dr Mahathir has very little time to do the many things needed to make the country great again but these fundamental flaws must be among the first to be fixed.

And as for the new administration’s slogan, how about ABC – as in Amanah, Bersih, Cekap? Like many others, I do miss the early days of his first term as PM.

Media consultant M. Veera Pandiyan likes this observation by 4th century Indian philosopher and royal adviser Chanakya: The people’s fury is above all the furies.

Mahathir Mohamad , Veera Pandiyan , media