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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mahathir remains a deeply divisive figure



Though former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been appointed as Pakatan Harapan's chairperson, the 92-year-old remains a deeply divisive figure among opposition supporters.
This was highlighted at a forum organised by Kelab Bangsar Utama titled “Mahathir: Agent of Change or Agent of Destruction?” last night, where two camps with two speakers each were pitted against each other on either side of the divide.
The audience of more than 150 people also seemed to reflect that divide, with many vocally lambasting Mahathir's role in Harapan while others seemed content to applaud the camp supporting Mahathir's leadership role in the coalition.
Of the 10 questions directed at the panellists from the audience during the question-and-answer session, eight of them were direct criticisms against Mahathir's new position in the opposition coalition.
Among the most vocal critics were Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leader S Arutchelvam (photo), who specifically slammed the arguments from social activist Hishamuddin Rais, who was one of the speakers supporting Mahathir's position in Harapan.
Hishamuddin said Mahathir was the only one among the opposition leaders now who had clout with powerhouses from the corporate world as well as with the royalty.
Arutchelvam mockingly said that he now knows the real reason Harapan accepted Mahathir into its coalition: to make phone calls to powerful people.
At the end of his tirade, about half of the crowd burst into applause, with several shouting, “Arul for prime minister”.
Another emotional outburst during the question-and-answer session came from another PSM member, Muhamad Harris Nasril, who accused Hishamuddin of going back on his words of not trusting Mahathir.
“You (Hishamuddin) are the one who taught us that Mahathir cannot be trusted, so why are you saying otherwise now?” Muhamad Harris shouted.
'The question is who our main enemy is'
However, Hishamuddin replied that he does not trust Mahathir, but the issue now was not about whether he trusts the former prime minister.
“The question is who our main enemy is, and why we are united and what is Mahathir's role. Whether I trust Mahathir or not is irrelevant,” he said. The main enemy now, he added, is Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
However, despite the loud opposition to Mahathir's role in the coalition, the pro-Mahathir camp was not without its supporters.
Another half of the crowd applauded each time Party Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu made his arguments for why Mahathir was a boon for Harapan, while Hishamuddin elicited much laughter from the crowd.
Two of the questions during the Q-and-A session also attempted to poke holes in the arguments by activist Haris Ibrahim and PSM Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, who expressed their disagrement with Mahathir's leadership role in Harapan.
An audience member prodded Jeyakumar on what PSM intended to do in the long-run, as it appeared it was not even trying to win the coming election.
PSM only has representative in Parliament now, that is Jeyakumar.
However, Jeyakumar did not appear to answer this question, choosing instead to respond to Hishamuddin, who had earlier said the main enemy is Najib.

Instead, Jeyakumar said that the main enemy is actually the global capitalism system, where most of the wealth is consolidated in the top one percent.
Pakatan Harapan revealed its leadership line-up last week, with Mahathir as its chairperson, Anwar Ibrahim as the de facto leader and Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the president.
Mahathir had then later said that he was the 'top dog' in the Harapan hierarchy, which prompted the discussion about trust in Mahathir. - Mkini

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