Former Malaysian diplomat says Dr Mahathir ‘needs to retire and stay retired’

Former Malaysian ambassador Datuk Dennis Ignatius speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Kuala Lumpur September 29, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Former Malaysian ambassador Datuk Dennis Ignatius speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Kuala Lumpur September 29, 2021. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — Former Malaysian ambassador Datuk Dennis Ignatius has urged former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to step down and stay away from Malaysian politics.

The author of Paradise Lost: Mahathir and the End of Hope claimed that if Malaysians keep trusting older leaders, the country will be stuck in a loop as old policies will keep coming back again.

“I think he needs to retire and stay retired. I am a firm believer (that) we need to stop looking at all these older people and I think we need to start looking at the younger generation as in other parts of the world, people who are 30 to 35 years old are becoming prime minister and all that.

“For us, we keep looking to all these older leaders and we expect things to be different? It will never be different because they will come back with the same old policies, the same mindset, the same ideas.

“It’s time to let younger generations come up and I believe that the new generation will be different from our generation,” the 72-year-old former diplomat told Malay Mail today.

In his book that was launched earlier this month, Ignatius claimed Dr Mahathir was responsible for the fall of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government.

He wrote that he believes the Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) founder created a culture that allows corruption, racism and religious extremism to thrive ever since he joined Malaysian politics.

Ignatius also said that Dr Mahathir had a role in PH electoral victory back in 2018, but subsequently, betrayed the coalition that he had been entrusted to lead.

“My contention is that not only did he see it (Sheraton Move) coming, he organised it. He was the man behind the Sheraton Move, he was planning it.

“I mean if we look at the Malay Dignity Congress and the way it was going and the way he was talking about ‘the Malays are weak’, ‘they have lost power’, what does all that mean? He was instigating it.

“If we look at the ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) ratification issue, Mahathir was the one who announced that the country will ratify the accord at the UN (United Nations) convention back in 2018. But when Umno and its allies made a big noise about it, Mahathir did not defend his own policy,” he said.

In October 2019, Dr Mahathir attended the Malay Dignity Congress and was presented with the resolutions produced by the congress’ five clusters.

Over 5,000 people attended the congress, co-organised by five universities and NGOs to look into the socio-political problems faced by the Malay community.

Prominent political and cultural figures in attendance included Umno veteran lawmaker Tan Sri Annuar Musa, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, then PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, and singer Datuk Seri Siti Nurhaliza.

On November 2018, PH government has decided not to ratify ICERD after a few demonstrations were held in protest against the United Nations treaty that prohibits racial discrimination, with Malay-Muslim groups and political parties claiming that the convention will remove Malay privileges.

Malaysia is one of 14 countries in the world that has not signed or ratified ICERD. Some of the others are Brunei, Myanmar and North Korea.

Out of 197 countries, 179 countries have ratified, acceded or succeeded and agreed to be bound by the ICERD.

The ICERD seeks to oblige countries to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, is able to enjoy a long list of rights some may take for granted, including the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, work, housing, medical care, social security, education, and even the right to access places for public use such as restaurants, theatres and parks.

In 2020, the PH government officially fell after Dr Mahathir tender his resignation from his position as the prime minister at the time.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin then succeeded the prime minister position after forming Perikatan Nasional (PN) that included Barisan Nasional (BN), PAS and Gabungan Parti Sarawak as the ruling coalition.

Eighteen months later, Muhyiddin stepped down from the position after receiving pressure from the Opposition and also his own allies.

Last month, BN candidate Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was sworn in as ninth prime minister of Malaysia after gaining 115 support of Parliamentary lawmakers to form a government.

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