One of Pakatan Harapan’s most respected voices today delivered his most stinging criticism yet against Dr Mahathir, accusing the prime minister of favouring his children, Daim Zainuddin and tycoon Syed Mokhtar Albukhary in business deals.
PKR founding member Syed Husin Ali believes that prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has reverted to authoritarianism and expressed serious concern over the future direction of the nation.
After Pakatan Harapan claiming that it had rescued the people from a kleptocratic government in the last general election, the veteran leader warned that Malaysia could now head towards “kleptocratic cronyism” instead.
“Mahathir has become the old Mahathir, especially in the past few months. Old Mahathir means he is dictatorial or authoritarian,” he told Malaysiakini in an interview.
Syed Husin alleged there is evidence to show that enormous wealth is being accumulated by Mahathir’s children and cronies.
“Many companies and projects have been handed to his cronies, especially (Council of Eminent Persons chairperson) Daim Zainuddin, (business tycoon) Syed Mokhtar Albukhary as well as his children,” he added.
Syed Hussin warned that power could be addictive, especially when it allowed a person to enrich himself, his family and friends.
“We have had kleptocracy. Are we now going to develop into kleptocratic cronyism? I hope not,” he said.
Eyebrows were raised when the Harapan government shifted government-linked companies (GLCs), including Khazanah Nasional, from the Finance Ministry to the Prime Minister’s Department, whereas Petronas and Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) fell under Economic Affairs Ministry.
This move allowed Mahathir to control Khazanah, the government’s top investment arm.
In January 2019, Universiti Malaya’s Terence Gomez expressed concern that the government was reinstating patronage.
He also criticised the creation of the state-run Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI) or Menteri Besar Incorporated (MBI) for giving politicians near-absolute control over the distribution of resources in their respective states.
Syed Husin said when Mahathir returned to Putrajaya following the May 9, 2018, general election, he was willing to listen to different views.
The nonagenarian, according to Syed Husin, appeared to be a changed man, especially when he relinquished the education portfolio after it was pointed out that it transgressed Harapan’s manifesto.
However, he said the situation is different now.
“His authoritarian ways are seen particularly in his recent behaviour where he made decisions on his own,” he noted.
He cited how five Bersatu senators were appointed several months ago despite Mahathir agreeing to allocate only two senatorships for his party during the Harapan presidential council meeting.
After stepping down as PKR deputy president in 2010, Syed Husin said he chose to keep a low profile and focus on his writings.
However, he felt compelled to air his views when Mahathir kept making ambiguous statements about passing the leadership baton to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim.
When Mahathir recently said he would remain in office for a maximum of three years and remarked that he could not guarantee his successor would manage the nation well, Syed Husin issued a hard-hitting statement.
Reiterating his call for Mahathir to step down during the Malaysiakini interview, Syed Husin said the Tanjung Piai by-election in Johor on Nov 16 could serve as a referendum on his leadership to a certain extent.
The seat fell vacant following the death of Bersatu’s Dr Mohd Farid Mohd Rafik on Sept 21, who won the seat in the last general election with a wafer-thin majority of 524 votes.
Syed Husin said Mahathir might want to remain as prime minister until May 2021 or even serve the full five-year term.
“(If this is the case,) I think the Harapan leadership should consider taking some action to persuade him to step down and make way for Anwar,” he added.
However, he ruled out a vote of no-confidence against the 94-year-old premier as this would risk dividing the coalition. – Malaysiakini