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Tun M and the deathly hallow(ed) silence

by James Lee

Another day, another gauntlet on the shores of Singapore. If the past weeks in the post-Najib era are anything to go by, there will be more snide comments and veiled attacks by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Singapore. For one, he is craftily adept at understanding the ground sentiment. This was the main reason why he was able to garner support from his electorate in his stunning victory. So it should come as no surprise that it was announced that Malaysia would air the World Cup for free, proudly sponsored by the government. Why so since they have a one trillion debt to deal with?

For one, 40 million RM is not a significant percentage compared to one trillion RM. 40 million RM will ensure continuation of the nationalist fervour that has swept the country since 9-May. It is a signal that the government has changed; it is no longer about money like how Najib bled its citizens dry. Secondly, Tun Mahathir knows that Singapore, being a practical country would never air the World Cup for free – why deny Temasek’s underlings the opportunity to make money from gullible Singaporeans? So, for 40 million RM, Tun M has successfully won the heart of Malaysians and sowed discord into Singaporeans who can now only watch in envy as for once, Malaysia can be better than Singapore. The abolishing of GST was also part of this strategy, to win the hearts of his citizens, and create a sense of envy across the Causeway.

Another gauntlet thrown in our faces was the interview he gave to the Financial Times. Articles called it a ‘cheeky comment’. If it came out of Tun Mahathir’s mouth, I would hardly call it cheeky. Rather, it is a calculated political move. Having demoralised Singaporeans by reminding them of the free World Cup and lack of GST, he now makes a more direct attack at the PAP. Of course, Singaporeans were indignant, going up in arms to call him a senile 92-year-old, reminding him to sort out his own country's debt problems, to asking him not to meddle in our country’s affairs. There was natural anger from the citizenry.

However, what was notably absent was the response from our leaders. Suddenly, our PM and our 4G leaders seemed to be strangely silent on the issues of GST, the World Cup (not a biggie though) but most importantly the veiled attacks on our governance. Even the usually rambunctious Minister Shan who devours historians and opposition politicians for breakfast seem unusually meek.

It makes me wonder what is our G’s strategy to Tun Mahathir?

Was it to keep a low profile, let him play his political games for two years until the new PM (hopefully a less combative one) takes over? If so, I hardly find it an appropriate strategy. In fact, it is a cowardly one. In work reference, it is akin to another department head who accuses your department in front of the CEO, but your own department head simply keeps his head low and does not say a word. It destroys morale, and more importantly, it destroys the credibility of the leader.

Continued silence from our leaders in the face of Tun Mahathir’s political attacks will wreak its havoc over time. Two years of Tun Mahathir’s games and our silent leaders will bring us straight to the 2019 elections, where perhaps that is Tun Mahathir’s key objective – to force a regime change in Singapore. Then, whilst our economy stalls due to internal squabbles over the running of the country, his new PM can steer Malaysia into fairer waters.

For the sake of our country, I hope this is not our strategy. If there is a time where strong leadership is required, now is the time.