PUTRAJAYA, May 9 — Make no mistake, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s keynote address commemorating his administration’s first year was no tame affair.
Set in the prestigious Perdana Hall in the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here, the event oozed expensive production values — from the walls plastered with giant faces of his ministers, to the neat and clean red digital backdrop, to the introduction videos touting each minister’s achievements over the past year.
If anything, it could be compared with the American State of the Union speech outlining the upcoming year’s economic report, national agenda and priorities, although instead of speaking in Parliament, Dr Mahathir spoke to Pakatan Harapan (PH) and the civil service.
The messaging delivered by the prime minister was well-crafted: concise and sharp lines delivered on teleprompters, rather than the off-the-cuff witty jabs he is well-known for.
If you missed it, do not worry. Malay Mail has distilled the three main themes of the address for you:
1. No apologies for ‘Najib and friends’
If you were expecting Dr Mahathir and PH to take its shock win last year with grace and avoid any more badmouthing of the previous administration, you would have been disappointed.
This was a harshly partisan event, despite the attendees being made up of mostly the civil service rather than party delegates.
Dr Mahathir wanted to drive the point home: that whatever the mess the country is in, whatever pledges PH failed to deliver on, however hard life may be right now for everyone — it is all no thanks to the kleptocratic Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his “friends.”
And if ever the public has forgotten about the ridiculously lavish life “Bossku” Najib and his wife Rosmah led — and still would have continued to enjoy, had PH not won — Dr Mahathir brought up the recent forfeiture action on assets allegedly gained with 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) funds.
Najib’s so-called friends also include Islamist party PAS. Dr Mahathir had previously said he was baffled how the two parties could now join hands in “marriage” when PAS had previously labelled Umno as “infidels”, and he again mentioned it.
Just in case anybody out there is groaning about how BN’s alleged wrongdoings keep getting mentioned again and again (Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng has admitted that he, too, is “tired” of it), Dr Mahathir has insisted that this will not change the fact in any way.
2. PH finally takes the Islamist lobby on but too little, too late?
After various street rallies held by Islamist coalition Ummah on issues that have little to do with “protecting the sovereignty of Islam” and accusations of PH betraying Malay-Muslims and the rulers, Dr Mahathir has finally decided not to keep quiet anymore.
The prime minister finally said what many of the majority Malay community needed to hear: that such rallies have less to do with Islam, than with purposely trying to tarnish the PH government’s image and stoke fear among the community.
Today, Dr Mahathir reiterated that the protests were merely done in service of Umno and PAS’ political interests, a fact he wished the public would finally realise after saying it several times this week, from the RTM interview last night, to his blog post yesterday, to a group media interview earlier this week.
But perhaps this retaliation comes a little bit too late, considering how such protests have effectively derailed some of PH’s policies, most notably the ratification of International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Icerd) and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
By shifting the blame solely on Umno and PAS, Dr Mahathir has also swept under the carpet an inconvenient truth: that the Islamist lobby is inherently made up of a sizeable part of the population rather than politicians, and has in the past been part of Putrajaya and may well still be.
3. Life is hard, and the government has been listening
A persistent criticism against the PH government from both within and outside, ahead of the one-year anniversary, has been that it purportedly cared little about the rising cost of living and are doing too little to alleviate the burden.
Foreign investors and the stock market too have been spooked by the relative uncertainty of the new government.
So Dr Mahathir made it clear that Putrajaya has been listening, addressing directly both the citizens, in addition to investors and the rest of the world, about what PH has to offer to tackle this.
The prime minister today reiterated an economic model of “shared prosperity” for the nation, which aims to build Malaysia into a sustainable developing country with equitable growth at all levels by 2030 — a decade after the long-held Vision 2020 plan.
While Dr Mahathir had first mentioned the concept while tabling the mid-term review of the 11th Malaysia Plan last year, today we got to see a clearer blueprint as he listed down its three main objectives: to address wage and wealth gap, presenting a new development model, and making Malaysia an important regional economic axis.
He also outlined the seven strategic cores of the model: From restructuring the country’s business and industry ecosystem, reforming human talents, enhancing social welfare, to developing inclusive territories.