Finally, a Malaysian politician has said the obvious thing publicly although it is something that has been widely discussed in the cocktail circuits in Malaysia and Singapore.
Sep 6, 2006
Mahathir 'shouldn't have left Cabinet'
SUNGAI PETANI (KEDAH) - FORMER Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad would have fared better if he had remained in the Cabinet, Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin said.
But it was too late now as 'he has missed the boat'. He said Tun Dr Mahathir should have emulated Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, who chose to remain within the government after serving as prime minister for 31 years.
'Lee Kuan Yew is smarter than Tun (Dr Mahathir) for he chose to remain as a minister mentor to the government after stepping down as prime minister,' Datuk Zainuddin told reporters after a visit yesterday to Kampung Bujang, near Sungai Petani.
'That way, he is still able to contribute to the government and be involved in the country's administration,' he said, referring to Mr Lee. -- THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, BERNAMA
It has been one of Dr M's biggest mistakes to relinquish all his political and government posts when he retired in Oct 2003 after 22 years in office, instead of staying on as a minister in the cabinet like Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew. Kuan Yew stayed on as Senior Minister and later became Minister Mentor. (In Singapore, the parliamentary hierarchy is Prime Minister, Senior Minister and Minister Mentor).
Dr M (right) and former Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew (left) in their meeting in Putrajaya in KL in August 2000 -- the Singapore statesman's first visit to Malaysia after he stepped down as Singapore PM in 1990.
If Dr M had stayed on as Senior Minister or Minister with Special Functions (a flexible and existing portfolio in Malaysia), he would have been able to provide a check on the current administration more effectively.
Instead, Dr M the commoner now faces the daunting government machinery in his crusade to unseat his chosen successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi over major differences. Many doubt he will succeed although it is difficult to rule him out completely as he has won all his political battles in the past.
Dr M thought Badawi would have carried out his legacy as promised. Furthermore, some of the key national projects were quickly dished out on the eve of his retiremement. They included the RM14.5 billion double tracking railway project, which would have been the biggest project in Malaysia, and the contentious crooked bridge project to replace the old causeway to Singapore. Both projects have since been shelved by Badawi and associates.
It is not suprising that Dr M refused to remain in the cabinet after his retirement like Kuan Yew. It is well known that Dr M and Kuan Yew have not seen eye to eye since their early political days. They clashed in the Malaysian parliament when Singapore was part of Malaysia between 1963 and 1965.
For instance, Kuan Yew recalled in his memoirs "The Singapore Story" that Dr Mahathir, who was then an Member of Parliament representing the United Malays National Organisation, had denounced Singapore's People's Action Party in Parliament as "pro-Chinese, communist-oriented and positively anti-Malay".
Hence, Dr M probably did whatever he could to avoid being seen as following the footsteps of Kuan Yew, who stepped down in Nov 1990 after 31 years as Singapore's longest-serving premier.
It remains one of Dr M's biggest political blunders.