KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 15 — Malaysia needs a government that can set aside partisan politics if the country is to survive the Covid-19 health crisis and its economic fallout, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.
In an interview with The Malaysian Insight published today, the Langkawi MP reiterated his call for a government that prioritises the nation’s survival ahead of party survival.
“I still think, at this time, if we want to reduce politics, we [must] put aside party matters, we [must] prioritise the country,” he was quoted saying.
He said party-based politics had divided the country and is aggravating the hardships inflicted by the pandemic, adding that Malaysians were fed up with the political shenanigans taking place during this health crisis.
“[A unity government] is a good approach. The people, too, are tired of party politics.
“It is good if we have a government that does not prioritise party-based politics,” he was quoted saying.
He pointed to the government formed after the divisive 1969 general election and the subsequent race riots of that year as a precedent — noting that the initiative was spearheaded by Tun Razak Hussein who invited then Opposition parties to join the ruling coalition.
Dr Mahathir said other nations in the Commonwealth had carried out similar unity governments in the past and cited the post-World War II Cabinet helmed by British prime minister Winston Churchill that included its Opposition leader Clement Attlee of the Labour Party.
However, Dr Mahathir claimed the current Perikatan Nasional-led federal government had chosen partisan politics over public interest in the Sabah election to ensure its survival.
“The government prioritises its position. It is afraid of being overthrown. So, the focus is on politics.
“And, that is why it seized power in Sabah. What was the need to seize power in Sabah? It would not have helped our economy. We knew its effects would be very bad,” he was quoted saying.
Dr Mahathir has reportedly met with several political leaders from both the ruling coalition as well as the Opposition to negotiate the formation of a unity government.
Among those he has reportedly met are his former nemesis from Umno, Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu and Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.
Dr Mahathir expressed concern over the possibility of the ruling coalition invoking emergency rule to remain in government, saying it would give Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin “extra power” that would lead to a “dictatorship”.
“[Muhyiddin] does not need that extra power. We have a problem with Covid-19 and the impact of the pandemic on the economy. This is a problem that can be addressed with existing laws.
“There is no need to set aside the law and introduce leadership by decree, which would lead to a dictatorship.
“Such a government will eventually make a mistake,” he told the news portal.
However, he added that Malaysia has it good compared to other countries as it has yet to reach a level where laws and Parliament needed to be suspended to address problems related to Covid-19.