(Kuala Lumpur, Friday): At the press conference at the end of his recent four-day visit to Malaysia, Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew expressed surprise to find "a lot of cynicism and skeptism" on the ground.
He said he "gleaned" of the cynicism and skepticism after meeting with senior journalists of local newspapers, saying: "If the editors accurately reflect the sentiments on the ground, then there is a lot of cynicism and scepticism".
What is even more surprising is that Lee made these remarks shortly after meeting top-notch editorial representatives from the mainstream media like New Straits Times, Utusan Malaysia and the Star, and if these are the very people who are confessing to an unprecedented credibility gap of the Mahathir administration, when their rice bowls depend on their ability to sell and package the Mahathir administration, something is indeed very wrong with the Barisan Nasional government.
Kuan Yew gave his hour-long press conference in Kuala Lumpur on August 17. If he had waited for another week, he would have found an even worse case of "cynicism and scepticism" as a result of the irresponsible and anti-national rampage by UMNO Youth to create a synthetic political and communal crisis over Malay special rights.
It is most shocking that today UMNO Youth leader Datuk Hishammuddin Tun Hussein had defied the Cabinet decision two days ago and the Barisan Nasional Youth decision yesterday to put an end to the Malay special rights controversy by re-igniting the issue in demanding for an apology from Suqiu committee.
Hishammuddinís backtracking and defiance of the decision of the Cabinet (which Hishammuddin took part as a member) highlights the general breakdown of the political and moral authority of the the Barisan Nasional government, the Cabinet and the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and explain why there is widespread and deep-seated "cynicism and skepticism" of the government on the ground in the country.
It is not that Mahathir is not unaware of the unprecedented credibility gap suffered by his government and political leadership - not only among the people but even among the UMNO rank-and-file.
This was why he banned any election challenge to the post of UMNO President and Deputy President at the UMNO General Assembly in May this year, for he could not be sure of the outcome if an open challenge is allowed against him as UMNO President - say from Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
The outcome of the UMNO Vice Presidential elections was a major slap in the face for Mahathir as his favourites as UMNO Vice Presidents suffered ignominous defeats.
Mahathir is very powerful, more powerful than he ever was in his 19 years as Prime Minister and he could have his way whether in the case of Lim Guan Eng or Anwar Ibrahim - but at the great cost of deepening cynicism and skepticism among the 22 million Malaysians about the fairness, justice, righteousness and moral and political legitimacy of the Mahathir administration.
Mahathirís moral and political authority in UMNO and country is at an all-time low and he will be tempted to resort to high-handed measures like another crackdown against democracy and human rights as another Operation Lalang mass arrests to buy time to protect his power and credibility.
However, the injustices suffered by Guan Eng, Anwar and a legion of other Malaysians should be a constant reminder that there can be no let-up in the democratic struggle to restore justice, freedom and good governance to save Malaysia from a phoney democracy.