Mahathir’s amazing political comeback PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 May 2018 15:23

LOOKING IN

BY ROD BALBON

He previously ruled Malaysia with an iron fist for 22 years and after 15 years of retirement, made a political comeback purposely to unseat his protégé, Najib Razak, when the latter got embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.

Expected by many political pundits to lose, Mahathir’s opposition alliance party—Pack of Hope—scored a huge political upset, ending Razak’s Barisan National (BN) Coalition’s hold on power which governed Malaysia uninterrupted since its birth as an independence country in 1957.

With his vast political experience and maturity, Mahathir teamed up with an alliance of parties that opposed him while he was in power, that included jailed opposition Anwar Ibrahim—his former Deputy and political nemesis.

Massive corruption, rising cost of living and stagnant wages pulled down Najib Razak and his party in a vicious mudslinging, hard fought, and fraudulent election. To hold on to power and win the election, Najib Razak gave cash and gifts to voters and rigged the electoral roll, to include dead voters appearing in the list.(No different from Philippine politics). His critics say that these are very clear attempts to rig the poll when the BN-dominated Parliament voted to redraw the electoral map, creating new constituencies dominated by Muslim Malay majority that backed the government. They make up some 60% of the population in Malaysia’s multi-ethnic society.

But Mahathir, a staunch Malay nationalist, ran down on Najib, lambasting him of corruption as billions of dollars were allegedly looted by him from 1MDB in a sophisticated money-laundering scheme and taking aim at his wife, Rosmah Mansor, whose reported spendthrift habits have made her unpopular. The US State Department alleges in civil lawsuits that $4.5 billion was pillaged from 1 MDB and funneled to the United States where it was used to buy everything from artworks to high-end real estates. Almost $700 million ended up in Najib’s personal accounts.

During the election day, the 15 million registered voters trooped to the polling stations very early to cast their votes which was different compared to the previous elections. The turn-out was overwhelming in terms of voters’ enthusiasm. Long line of voters were formed at polling stations nationwide and just after noontime, the Electoral Commission reported a 55% turnout. The result showed that Mahathir’s coalition party, along with small allies in Borneo, won 121 seats. Najib’s BN only won 79 seats.

Accordingly, many Malaysians have been waiting for this to happen and Mahathir has come back to cleanse the government of massive graft and corruption and defuse racial tensions. They were extremely elated that the opposition has found the right person in Mahathir, one of the country’s most charismatic and popular politician, to take on Najib and his BN. He could appeal to the country’s biggest ethnic group whose years in power were remembered as a prosperous period in the country’s history.

Now the world’s eldest political leader at 92 years old, he pledged to get Anwar Ibrahim, who will be out of jail this June, a royal pardon and eventually pass unto him the premiership. He likewise pledged to send Najib Razak to jail for corruption.

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PM Mahathir has revived in me the Sipadan Hostage Crisis where 9 Malaysians, 2 Filipinos, and 12 Europeans were abducted in Sipadan Beach Resort and brought to Jolo, Sulu by the Abu Sayyaf Group sometime in 1999.

Together with the late Jamil Hassan, I was chosen as the Coordinator/Facilitator for the Philippines and Malaysia in negotiating for their release.

Datuk Abdul-Aziz Shamsuddin, Mahathir’s long-time economic and political adviser, came over to Zamboanga City together with former Sabah Chief, Datuk Yong Tek Li, to supervise, observe and monitor the progress of the negotiations for the Malaysians’ safe release.

Accordingly, PM Mahathir’s instruction was to utilize and exhaust all available means for their safe release. I was reporting to him through comprehensive memoranda, through the late Yusuf Hamdan, through e-mails relative to the progress of the negotiations with the ASG.

With businessman Le Peng Wee as the over-all leader of our group and giving us all the instructions with the assistance of Datuk Shamsuddin, we were able to accomplish our mission—the release of all the Malaysians, including the 2 Filipino working at Sipadan Resort within 2 months. The Europeans, whose release was being negotiated the then Sec. Robert Aventajado, was accomplished after more than 5 months with the financial help of Muammar Khaddafi’s son who came all the way to Zamboanga City bringing the ransom money in the amount of $25 million which was the demand of the ASG for their safe release.

After the release of the Malaysian hostages, PM Mahathir invited our group to Malaysia and met him at Sutera Hotel in Kota Kinabalu where he personally thanked and awarded businessman Le Peng Wee and our group for our help in effecting their safe release. Thereafter, we were toured in Kuala Lumpur were we were billeted at Genting Highlands for a week, then to Singapore, and on to Hongkong. I can still remember the words of PM Mahathir when he said that he cannot allow his countrymen to be held hostage, suffer, and even get killed by the ASG. They must be helped and protected at all cost. He said. “What will others say if we just let them suffer and die?”

That was PM Mahathir, the staunch Malaysian nationalist. Do we have this kind of a leader in this benighted land?