15 January 2014

Nostalgia for better times has dominated this week with one Umno veteran openly calling for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to return to helm the country while the prime minister's brother harked back to the integrity of their own prime minister father.

But the better times was when Umno was dominant and the Internal Security Act (ISA) was used to silence dissent, something which Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin alluded to when calling for Dr Mahathir's return to lead the nation.
He is the latest Mahathirist to say the obvious in not so many words that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak must step down.
Several bloggers aligned to Dr Mahathir have called for the same in the weeks after the last Umno elections where Najib's camp won handsomely.
These were among the same people who also agitated against Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who resigned as prime minister and Umno president in April 2009, a year after the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) suffered historic losses in the 2008 elections.
But Umno then had Najib, the son of second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and the man who was virtually groomed for the job after his father died 38 years ago yesterday.
And Dr Mahathir approved the choice that he rejoined Umno the day after Najib became party president.
That was five years ago and Najib took power with the promise that the days of government knows best were over, to relax security laws and liberalise the economy, transforming Malaysia into a high-income nation by 2020, to the chagrin of the Mahathirists.
In the past year after BN lost even further in the general election of 2013, Putrajaya has rolled back some of the freedom and have again prioritised the Bumiputera economic agenda.
Yet, the Mahathirists are not happy and now want a change.
So, Najib has to go and Malaysia must return to the Mahathir years when growth was high and dissenters stayed in Kamunting, which just saw the last of the ISA detainees leave its front gates.
But that suggestion just won't do.
The Mahathir years created fat cats who made money through crony deals and policemen who relied on the ISA as a crutch to keep peace instead of real detective work.
It is no wonder that some people want to return to that era, to keep money and power for themselves in an increasingly level economic playing field and a shrinking global economy.
But who can they replace Najib from among the parliamentary bench from Umno? The Mahathirists have named no one, save Dr Mahathir himself leading a council of elders to chart Malaysia's future.
That would say much about Umno's internal talent pool after Dr Mahathir's time in power.
And show the kind of guided democracy to which Umno professes.
For Mahathirists, only the good doctor can save the nation and return it to the glory years of the 1980s when Malaysia was an Asian tiger cub economy with Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
And no one else.
Unlike Datuk Seri Mohd Nazir Razak's ode to his father, who was seen as a man of integrity, a democrat and a nationalist fighting for the country more than for his race or his own family.
Both the Mahathirists and Nazir are sentimental for a better time, one for a man and another for a man's legacy – something which Najib appears to fall short of either way.
Yet, Najib has a mandate for at least the next three years, barring a party putsch. But he has to decide, either to pander to the few Mahathirists and quit or be a prime minister like his father was.
And he has to decide soon or nostalgia will keep him and the country deeper in a rut.


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