Dr Mahathir and his people: Malaysia Boleh!

By Augustine Low

Speaking to some Malaysians over the weekend, it’s interesting that Dr Mahathir Mohamad is taken to heart by them as a changed man, a savior and a unifier.

“He cares for us,” one of them said. “He truly loves the country,” said another.

Indeed, after his swearing-in as Prime Minister of Malaysia last Thursday night, Mahathir addressed the media and twice he said “we really love this country.” It came across as heartfelt and genuine.

Perhaps those of us who felt that Mahathir was on a personal vendetta when he marshalled the Opposition to topple the Barisan Nasional government have been wrong all along.

He did it because he cared deeply about his country.

Why would a 92-year-old (he turns 93 in July), deep in the winter of life, go through the pain and trouble of forming a political party, mobilising a coalition, and fighting the mother of all elections, if not for love of country?

Malaysians have put aside Mahathir’s wrongdoing during his previous tenure as PM of Malaysia for 22 years (which he has more than once apologised for). They have embraced Mahathir as their leader and saviour so they could start afresh and build a better future for the country.

For Mahathir, it is a golden opportunity to rewrite his legacy. His is one of the greatest comebacks in political history.

If he is true to his word, and he unifies the country and cleans up the mess after all the plunder that has been going on right under the noses of Malaysians, then he could have an enriching, enduring legacy.

Malaysians are fortunate to have Mahathir. But the people made change possible because they have the will, the belief, the guts and the determination.

Singaporeans have to concede: Malaysia boleh!