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22 May 2024

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Umno dilemma

Should Mahathir be allowed to continue running down the party or should he be arrested?
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has no kind words left for Umno. In a blog posting, he condemns the party with some of his harshest words yet. He says, “Most Umno members and leaders have become dumb, deaf and blind.”
It is perhaps significant that the statement is a variation of a passage from the Quran. The second chapter of the holy book condemns “those who have bartered guidance for error,” calling them people who have gone “deaf, dumb and blind,” who have “lost true direction” and whose “traffic is profitless.”
Mahathir’s article is full of invective. He tells the Malaysian public to stop hoping that Umno itself will expel Najib. He says the party’s members would sell their religion, race and country for personal profit.
Understandably, such strong words have provoked anger from ardent defenders of the Prime Minister, with one hinting that the former premier’s words would eventually lead to his arrest. Surely, the confessed former dictator is cognisant of the consequences of his outburst and fully aware that there are mechanisms in place to silence dissent. After all, these were tools that he used once upon a time.
Mahathir’s new message is as provocative as it is unprecedented. He is essentially sounding the alarm, telling Malaysians that it is high time to abandon ship, to place their hopes in the Save Malaysia movement instead of in Umno. Already, he has invited the rakyat to sign the Citizens’ Declaration and called on “right thinking Malaysians” to travel to a thousand kampungs to let the people know what is really happening in the country.
We can expect large numbers of urbanites to sign the declaration once it is revealed how they can go about doing it. This is a problem that several people have raised in the past few days. The Save Malaysia movement will probably come up with clear instructions soon.
The real struggle will be in reaching out to the rural people, whose lives do not revolve around questions about the GDP or fair enforcement of the law or corruption scandals. The movement has its work cut out in its attempt to gain support from the kampung folk.
Mahathir’s latest salvo puts him ever closer to prison. Najib cannot wave that threat in front of Mahathir’s face if he does not dare follow it through, but because the question has been brought up, it has to be addressed. The PM’s failure to take legal action against the Wall Street Journal is held up as an illustration by those who allege that he is a man living in fear. If he betrays weakness in the face of Mahathir’s invective, the jeering will only get louder.
The big question remains the same, however. Which is more dangerous? Mahathir the amok or Mahathir the martyr in a prison cell?

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