Mahathir’s move a step in the wrong direction for a country with a plural society.
After decades of political jousting and accusing each other of racism, Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Lim Kit Siang’s opposing ideologies found a common ground, or rather, foe – Najib Abdul Razak.
However, this unprecedented cooperation came apart at the seams soon after securing a historic win in the 2018 national polls. The Pakatan Harapan government collapsed after 22 months.
With the next general election looming, Mahathir announced that he is building a new army to wage war against Umno. However, only Malays and bumiputera would be recruited.
And now Lim, 81, is distraught that Mahathir, 97, has come full circle.
“I feel a great sadness that after nearly 100 years in Malaysian politics, Mahathir has only moved from pro-Malay to pro-Malay when he announced a new Malay movement – Gerakan Tanah Air (GTA) to fight Umno in the 15th general election.
“I feel great sadness because it is a retrograde step, which is a blow to Vision 2020 and the concept of Bangsa Malaysia,” rued the DAP veteran in a statement.
Recalling Mahathir’s book titled ‘Capturing Hope’ after the Sheraton Move, Lim said he accepted the nonagenarian’s definition that pro-Malay does not mean being against other races, but there are others who defined this as Malay first or against non-Malays.
“But it is very sad that Mahathir has come full circle, that he has done what he had criticised and instead formed GTA.
“Mahathir said that GTA consists exclusively of Malay and bumiputera but it also aims to fight for the interest of all races,” he added.
With Malaysia poised to celebrate its 65th anniversary in a month, Lim described Mahathir’s move as a step in the wrong direction for a country with a plural society.
At present, GTA comprises Pejuang, Parti Perikatan India Muslim Nasional (Iman), Parti Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa), and Parti Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia (Putra).
Mahathir said the movement welcomed the participation of NGOs, individuals and professional groups as well.
GTA aims to contest in 120 parliamentary constituencies in Peninsular Malaysia.
However, certain pundits believe that the movement would not be able to make an impact in GE15. Furthermore, Mahathir’s popularity has also waned.
His greatest political nemesis, Najib, who underestimated Mahathir’s influence in the last general election, had again dismissed his predecessor-turned-successor as no longer relevant.
Najib pointed out that Pejuang failed to win any seats in the Johor state election in March despite Mahathir joining the campaign trail.
“The place where the grandfather (Mahathir) campaigned in, Ayer Hitam, also lost the deposit, which means he’s no longer relevant,” he said.
GTA is the brainchild of Mahathir.
“Our members will be exclusively Malay and this is not because we are racist. It is to take on another Malay party – Umno – during the next general election,” he said.
Mahathir said a Malay movement was needed to get the backing of Malays, and he called upon Malays who were doubtful of their future to support it.
Mahathir, who will also be GTA chairman, said the rights of the Malays “would be strengthened” with the new movement.
“A majority of those in poverty are Malays. Due to this, they are facing various problems which include having to sell their lands,” he told a press conference yesterday.
While pointing out that the gap between the rich and the poor could create tensions and instability, Dr Mahathir also raised the racial bogeyman.
“In the city, there are those from a certain race and in the villages, there are those from other races.
“This is not good for political stability, which can cause unwanted issues, such as clashes, to occur,” he said.
Mahathir added that the movement had a strong chance of winning multi-cornered contests in Malay-majority seats.
“Most Malaysians oppose corruption, so we stand a good chance because people will want change,” he said, in reference to seats contested by Umno and Bersatu.
He also said the movement would submit an application to the Registrar of Societies (ROS) soon.
“If ROS can be lenient towards Umno and allow it to postpone party polls, we hope it can also be lenient in our case,” said Dr Mahathir.
Meanwhile, Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has rejected the new coalition.
He pointed out that Mahathir had 22 months to help the Malay-Muslim community.
“I don’t support such an initiative because if he really wants to defend Malay-Muslims, in his 22 months (as prime minister for the second time), he should have helped.
“But the Malays he chose do not really represent Malay sentiments,” Anwar told reporters.