Mahathir was Malaysia’s longest-serving PM. And that, of course, brings with it a tremendous amount of goodwill. But goodwill, like all things, has a shelf-life and expiry date. And if you misuse or abuse that goodwill it erodes and gets devalued even faster. And that is what has happened to Mahathir today. Mahathir, however, does not realise this and acts like he still has what he had back in 2003 when he retired as PM.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
You must know when to not overextend your welcome or outlive your goodwill. Goodwill has value. You can sell goodwill for a price. Accountants would classify this as an intangible asset. Assets come in many forms. It could be fixed assets or net tangible assets (NTA). It could be future profit or future earnings. Or it could be goodwill. Hence, when you sell a property or company, you take all these factors into account.
For example, there would be a tremendous amount of goodwill in the McDonald’s or Coca-Cola name. The name alone, without any assets, is worth a lot of money. Names have value, as do reputations. Ex-US President Barack Obama’s name has tremendous goodwill and value. So, if you want to employ him as your company chairman, it would cost a lot of money. The question is not so much whether you can afford his ‘goodwill’ price but whether your organisation is good enough or worthy enough for him to lend his name to it.
Obama showing you how much goodwill he carries
In other words, does your organisation possess a huge goodwill as well to match his? Even if Malaysian Airlines or Proton were prepared to pay him US10 million a year (or whatever the ‘market price’ should be) just to attend four board meetings a year and chair the AGM, most likely Obama may turn down the offer. He would probably not even want to accept the offer of the chairmanship of Petronas. Those are companies that only an ex-Prime Minister of Malaysia would want to head.
So, goodwill actually works both ways. It is not only whether you are worthy of me. It is also whether I am worthy of you. Obama may be worthy of Malaysian Airlines. But Malaysian Airlines may not be worthy of Obama. So that means we will still not have a deal.
This is something that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad appears to have overlooked and did not take into consideration post-2003. Mahathir was the longest-serving Malaysian Prime Minister — and being only the fourth Prime Minister, and since Malaysia does not have the ‘two-term only’ rule, it is not difficult to become the longest-serving Malaysian Prime Minister. Probably 200 years from now that record would be broken by another Malaysian who will serve as Malaysia’s Prime Minister for 30 years — unless in the meantime Parliament passes a Bill that states a Prime Minister can rule for only two terms or two general elections.
With no longer any goodwill left, Mahathir has to take to the streets
Anyway, 22 years is a long time and a record thus far. So that attracted a lot of goodwill. Furthermore, those were the ‘good years’ (economically-speaking, although not good years as far as civil liberties, human rights and corruption are concerned, which were probably the worst years) and the era of the baby boom. So, many Malaysians grew up with Mahathir as Prime Minister and they grew up during the ‘period of plenty’.
Hence it really did not matter who the Prime Minister in the 1980s was. If Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman had not died in August 1973, which saw Tun Hussein Onn take over as the new Deputy Prime Minister, and if Tun Razak Hussein had not died in January 1976, which saw Hussein Onn take over as the new Prime Minister, and if Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had not been such an idiot, then no one would have heard of Mahathir and many Malaysians would not have grown up with him as Malaysia’s Prime Minister.
Yes, it was not only two deaths, one in 1973 and another in 1976, that changed the course of Malaysian history. It was also the lack of foresight on the part of Tengku Razaleigh that resulted in Mahathir, instead of him, becoming the Deputy Prime Minister to Hussein Onn. At that time we had no internet or else the Pakatuns and DAPsters would have accused Mahathir of causing Tun Dr Ismail’s heart attack and Tun Razak’s leukaemia.
Anyway, Hussein Onn wanted Tengku Razaleigh but the Kelantan Prince decided to let Mahathir take over, and instead of becoming the Deputy Prime Minister to Hussein Onn, he would become the Deputy Prime Minister to Mahathir when Mahathir takes over from Hussein Onn — unless Mahathir, too, dies in office like Tun Dr Ismail and Tun Razak.
What Tengku Razaleigh never expected is that when Mahathir took over from Hussein Onn he reneged on the deal and chose Tun Musa Hitam instead as his deputy (although he says Umno and not he chose Musa). The reason here is very simple. Mahathir hates royalty (which is why he hated Tunku Abdul Rahman) and Tengku Razaleigh is a stubborn man with his own mind. So there is no way Mahathir could control Tengku Razaleigh and make him toe the line. And with Musa instead as the number two, Mahathir could keep Tengku Razaleigh in check and the threat of a challenge to his position would be removed.
Fate took away Tun Dr Ismail in 1973 and Tun Razak in 1976 and Malaysia ended up with Mahathir for 22 years
It was actually a very clever move and something that Mahathir had been planning for some time. It was a cruel act of fate that removed Tun Dr Ismail from the Malaysian political scene in 1973 and removed Tun Razak in 1976. If not I would not be writing this article and my entire life would be very different from what it is today. But God play a practical joke on Malaysia by taking away Tun Dr Ismail in 1973 and Tun Razak in 1976, leaving the door open for Mahathir to take over in 1981 and staying for 22 years till 2003 (so who says God does not have a sense of humour?).
Anyway, as usual I am being long-winded. The point I want to make is that Mahathir, due to the death of two people, and due to the stupidity of Tengku Razaleigh, became Malaysia’s Prime Minister for 22 years. And that attracted a lot of goodwill. When Mahathir retired in 2003 he left with loads of goodwill under his belt.
But goodwill is an intangible asset and over time it erodes and gets devalued. And if you misuse or abuse that goodwill it erodes and gets devalued at a much faster rate. When Mahathir started attacking Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2006, he still had a lot of goodwill. So people allowed him to get away with it. No one condemned Mahathir or whacked him. In fact, in 2008, the Special Branch advised Abdullah to resign because his goodwill can never match that of Mahathir’s — and in the open confrontation that was going on between Mahathir and Abdullah since 2006, Mahathir is going to win (in spite of Abdullah pulling of the best election performance in Malaysian history in 2004).
Mahathir’s goodwill beat Abdullah’s in 2006 so he was forced to resign in 2009
So Abdullah resigned and in April 2009 Najib Tun Razak took over as Prime Minister. But what Mahathir forgot is that while Abdullah may have been his successor, Najib was not his successor. Najib was Abdullah’s successor. So, while Mahathir can force his goodwill upon Abdullah, he cannot do the same with Najib. In fact, that goodwill now belongs to Abdullah and not to Mahathir.
Whatever it may have been, though, Najib still allowed Mahathir some goodwill. But then Mahathir pushed it too far and overextended his goodwill. What Mahathir did not realise is that his goodwill is dated November 2003 and by November 2013 it was already ten years old. Even goodwill has a shelf-life and expiry date and Mahathir’s had already more or less reached the end of the ‘use-by’ date. By November 2014, Mahathir had practically no more goodwill left and he was running just on fumes. And when Mahathir openly declared war on Najib in December 2014, he was already running on empty.
Today, Mahathir no longer has any goodwill left. Even the good he may have done in his first ten years as Prime Minister in the 1980s is forgotten. What many remember are just the bad parts of his 22 years reign. And this was the period he decided to resign from Umno (last year), and form his new party (PPBM or Pribumi), and take over as the de facto Opposition Leader, and try to bring all the opposition parties under one roof (Pakatan Harapan) and so on.
Ten years ago in 2006 this may have worked. Back in 2006, when he decided to take on Abdullah, Mahathir’s goodwill was tremendous. In fact, it was so tremendous that when he told the Chinese, even those from Barisan Nasional, to vote opposition in 2008 they did (Mahathir’s Chinese Tsunami). And that was why five states and 82 parliament seats fell to the opposition. Mahathir now realises that what he did in 2006 and 2008 can no longer work today. But what Mahathir does not seem to realise is it no longer works because he no longer possesses the required goodwill to make it work.
In the battle of goodwills, Mahathir is running on empty while Najib has loads under his belt