A setback for reforms

MARCH 1 — With what seemed to be very little warning, Malaysia’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) government collapsed last week.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Bersatu party pulled out of the ruling coalition, meaning that PH no longer commanded a parliamentary majority.

Mahathir himself stepped down as prime minister only to be reappointed as interim PM by the King.

In the past week, there has been non-stop jockeying as different power blocks try to present a majority in parliament.

There have been changes in allegiance, splits in parties and various names have been put forward for the PM position.

Meanwhile, the country faced a slowing economy and Covid-19 threats without a working government or Cabinet.

This is precisely the sort of chaos, selfishness and outright incompetence that makes a lot of Singaporeans extremely smug about our relative stability versus the state of our neighbour.

It is sad but as of this moment the naysayers and Malaysia deriders seem to have been proven right.

Where for a moment it seemed possible the country would become a beacon for democracy and reform in our region, it now seems likely it will lurch away from reforms, pluralism and the battle against corruption.

Underneath the ugly squabble for power are old ethnic insecurities and the pathological need of a compromised deep state to protect itself at all costs.

The Pakatan Harapan coalition clearly underestimated the potential for a counter revolution.

In failing to see out its term, it will have made possible an even more fragile and divided Malaysia with some extremely questionable forces now approaching the levers of power.

Dr Mahathir a hero who become a villain who become a hero appears to have overreached himself.

He too had a momentary shot at greatness. A chance to immortalise himself as a national saviour but his latest actions, which appear to have hastened the end of the revolution he himself ushered in, will likely deny him this place.

And again buried under the squabbling of these greedy, wealthy and powerful men are ordinary Malaysians.

People who have seen decades of stagnation and failure to realise the country’s potential can now look forward to more lost years.

Sometimes I wonder if Malaysians themselves realise or remember the extent of their country’s potential. Enormous resources, strong infrastructure, a diversified economy, a diverse population... held back by its leadership.

Whoever climbs the greasy pole to the top of government, Malaysia's transition to democracy, its fight against corruption and towards an inclusive society has been grievously set back.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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