OF GOOD NEWS AND BAD

We have good news and bad news.

OK, it’s mostly bad news but there is a solitary ray of very good news that might ultimately prove our salvation.

It is this: Malaysia now can boast one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, second only to Canada on a similar-size basis and double that of Australia.

If so, we might just jab our way out of our current predicament given enough luck, nerve and a continued lockdown.

The initial signs are there. Out of Thursday’s tally of over 13,000 cases, fully 96% were asymptomatic or mild. That seems to indicate that the vaccinations are blunting the severity of the disease.

Even so, it does not get us off the hook. So long as the numbers keep climbing sharply, even a 5% rate of severity will continue to choke our health services.

That’s where luck and the lockdown come in.

We all know what the bad news is, but outside the reeling economy and the rising unemployment, other concerns are surfacing including a resurging Dr Mahathir.

OK, let me rephrase that with a question: What are the odds that Pejuang will throw its supports behind the Prime Minister, currently embattled by Umno’s withdrawal of support?

The only reason I ask is that the Home Ministry has suddenly been gracious enough to allow Pejuang’s registration as a “legitimate” political party while resolutely continuing to ignore Muda, a party of young, political aspirants, that has similarly sought registration.

Given that we are talking about Malaysia where there is always a political quid against someone else’s quo, there is ample reason to believe something is afoot.

Add to that Dr Mahathir‘s airy, and apropos of nothing, comment that he would quit Pejuang if offered the headship of the National Recovery Council, and we are left to ponder, once again, the Machiavellian machinations of Malaysia’s Mahathir.

In short, the man wants back.

You’d think he’s old enough to know better, having just turned 96. I mean, this is a guy who baby-sat Maharaja Lela, for God’s sake, and he still thinks he’s indispensable.

He once accused the Malays of being “easily forgetful.” In truth, most Malaysians aren’t. We remember all too well his odious assault on the judiciary and his dumbing down of the civil service. Then there were his deeply flawed ideas that cost the nation dear: the national car, the push for heavy industrialisation. None of these “Think Big” projects were successful but you wouldn’t know that, listening to him.

According to the late Barry Wain, who authored a critical book on the man, he once told Dr Mahathir that he’d estimated that the former physician had engineered over RM50 billion in wealth destruction during his tenure. Barry said that Dr Mahathir simply retorted that he’d “created more wealth than he destroyed.”

That might very well be true but it also speaks volumes about the country’s inherent wealth generating capacity, its industrious population and its resource-rich nature.

Immediately after the 2018 general election, a group of us were celebrating PH’s improbable victory when we were joined by another, an elderly arbitrator, a man who not only remembered British colonial rule but started his career during the period. Surveying our good cheer, he asked one question, clearly directed at the incoming Prime Minister: “Can a leopard change his spots?”

Apparently not.

ENDS

GIVE IT A REST, DOC

The website Lexico defines “power crazed” as a person having an “extremely strong desire for power, or irrational on account of having had power.”

Sound familiar?

When it comes to opinions on how Malaysia might presently be governed, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 95, has more opinions than a Rudy Giuliani on steroids.

Malaysians found out yesterday that the physician tried his luck yet again, suggesting to the King that the best way forward for the country was a 1969-style National Operations Council (NOC) to run the show.

The NOC was a small council led by Abdul Razak Hussein, then a deputy premier, that led the country in autocratic fashion in the wake of racial riots after a general election in 1969. Essentially, it worked as a dictatorship, albeit in “benevolent” fashion.

And why does the good doctor feel compelled to float such a drastic proposal in the first place? Well, apparently, his team in Pejuang – a breakaway party with 5 MPs – have “some ideas” about the economy and controlling the current pandemic but cannot get them implemented as they aren’t in government.

Asked if he had suggested to the King a possible candidate that might lead the NOC, Dr Mahathir said that there was no specific person named but he did “offer his services”.

It was not unlike the old saying about cattle horns: “A point here, a point there and a lot of bull in between.”

Here’s my translation of the physician’s message: he has some ideas, no one’s listening so it’s a good time for him to return as Paramount Leader who will Brook No Dissent.

For that is what an NOC essentially implies.

This is the same politician who was against any extension of the Emergency. Now he proposes a new, and stronger, Emergency with fizz, bang and wallop.

This was the same politician who wanted Parliament to reconvene and allow the citizenry its voice. Not any more, not if he can come back as a new-look Tun Razak!

And, finally, this is the same fellow who resignedly told Bernama only two months ago that he “was too old to become Prime Minister again.”

“If I were younger, I could become Prime Minister again, but I am 95 now and I can still function and hope to advise people on what they should do … I feel I shouldn’t be the prime minister for the third time,” he said.

Our hearts bleed but you won’t hear us disagree.

Dr Mahathir talks about “giving advice” but even that harmlessly-benign-Mr. Rogers-stuff has its sinister downside: Abdullah Badawi was hounded out of office because he “did not take” the doctor’s advice and chose his own way instead.

That is the problem with Dr Mahathir right there. He thinks he has all the answers but we, Malaysians, over 24 years and a bit, know that he does not.

Good leaders leave the stage when the applause is loudest. For Dr Mahathir that moment came a long time ago, in 2003.

It’s all but gone now: you can’t reheat a souffle.

ENDS