Five events stand out in the past seven weeks which do not augur well and indicate that the final term of Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad would be the most dangerous times for Malaysian nation-building as all external checks-and-balances have been dismantled while there are totally no countervailing forces inside UMNO and Barisan Nasional to give him a reality check.
These events have also made me revise my earlier view about Mahathirís own retirement plans. Mahathir had indicated that this would be his last term and that he would not be leading the Barisan Nasional in the eleventh general election, whether in 2,004 or 2,005. I believe him. The question is whether Mahathir would complete his full term or whether he would step down earlier to allow his newly-designated heir apparent, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, time to consolidate his power base and lead the Barisan Nasional in the next general election.
I had been inclined to the view that Mahathir would not serve his full term. There are differences of opinion as to when he would step down from office, ranging from one year to four years after the election. But I am now inclined to the view that he would want to serve and complete his full fifth term as Prime Minister before passing on the baton of premiership.
These five events are:
It is sad that Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah seems to be the only UMNO leader who has not misread the result of the recent general election, where UMNO suffered its worst electoral defeat in party history.
So long as Mahathir and the UMNO Supreme Council is not prepared to concede "that what the people want is not just physical development but also freedom", the worst excesses of the Mahathir rule in the past 19 years are going to be exceeded in his last term as Prime Minister, whether it be the total lack of accountability and transparency as in the long catalogue of economic and financial scandals; concentration of power through usurpation of the role and function of other independent organs of government, whether Parliament, judiciary, office of attorney-general, election commission, anti-corruption agency, auditor-generalís office, etc or the violation of human rights and democratic freedoms.
Who are there in UMNO and Barisan Nasional who could check or moderate the exccesses of Mahathir? Is there a Musa Hitam, Anwar Ibrahim or even a Ghafar Baba in his present-day team who have their own independent power base to give Mahathir a reality check?
Yesterday, an anonymous "Special Correspondent" in the New Straits Times accused the DAP and me in particular of "quite clearly and understandably in favour of a fractious contest at the May 11 Umno elections".
From a purely selfish standpoint, the Opposition should hope that the UMNO Supreme Councilís "no contest" decision for the two top UMNO posts is not disturbed so that it could generate resentment and animosity against the top UMNO leadership at such an undemocratic, autocratic and Stalinist measure to keep UMNO in perpetual turmoil.
I have been told to stay out of UMNO politics and to stop making press statements on the UMNO election process "as it is an internal matter".
I am not interested in UMNO elections as I am not an UMNO member but as the election of the two top UMNO posts also decides the posts of Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the country, it is the right of every Malaysian citizen to be concerned.
The UMNO Supreme Councilís "no contest" decision as well as the recent crackdown against Opposition leaders and activists are not going to enhance the political legitimacy and credibility of Abdullah Badawi as the undisputed fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia and this is why I had suggested that Abdullah should show his leadership qualities and democratic credentials by asking the UMNO Supreme Council to rescind the "no contest" decision.
I am giving Abdullah and UMNO good free advice and it is up to them to decide whether to benefit from it.