The doctor is in: Of pandemic and politics
Election should only be done once herd immunity is achieved, suggests Dr Mahathir
by AZREEN HANI & AFIQ AZIZ / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI
THE Covid-19 pandemic and political uncertainties that have plagued Malaysia since 2020 will have long-term consequences, while having an immediate election after the Emergency will complicate the country’s recovery further, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“I would say that you cannot have the election…immediately after the Emergency is lifted. You must wait until you have the herd immunity. But it will be hard because even at this moment, some people are afraid of registering for vaccination,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview last week.
“The Emergency may end on Aug 1. But the situation with Covid…we know what happened in Sabah. Even if the figure has come down, once we remove the restrictions and allow campaignings, this virus can come back. You have to remember it (Covid) has many variants now. With new variants, if you get it, then you will have another problem to solve altogether,” he added.
Dr Mahathir reiterated that the state of Emergency at the moment is illegal as its declaration did not undergo the due process, ie, going through the Parliament.
“According to the Constitution, the law says the gazette has to be placed before parliamentary approval. Without it, it’s not legal. So, the declaration is not legal. We are operating outside the rule of law. Everything that is done is not legal,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said the only other time that an emergency was declared in the country, it was for a specific purpose — to remedy a political crisis and it was managed by a committee.
He said during the Emergency in 1969, then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein formed the Majlis Gerakan Negara to focus on the political problem.
However, the government in the current Emergency, Dr Mahathir said, does not show enough commitment to resolve the pandemic issues.
“They are not thinking about solving the problems, they are all thinking of their positions. They can bring down this government by resigning, but they will not, because it will mean losing RM70,000 pay. They join (the government) because of money, they have no idea what to do.
“There is a general feeling that anyone can become the government, (but) it is not. You have to have ideas. You have to have the know-how on how to do things.
“What you have today is an ineffective government. I cannot say much about it because people will say, ‘oh, it’s because he wants to become the prime minister (PM),’” the former PM said.
He reiterated that Malaysian law is adequate to combat the pandemic without suspending the Parliament, as evident with other countries such as New Zealand.
On the vaccination programme, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia should step up the rate and reduce the bureaucratic process to speed up the rollout.
“We should step up the rate. That means getting more of the vaccines,” he said.
“But the problem is the decision-making is very slow. We don’t trust anybody,” he said, adding that there should be trust even towards private healthcare (sector), should it decide to procure the vaccines for the willing parties.
“We have to put some trust in them. They want to achieve success for themselves. We should not be too afraid that this sector will lie or use doubtful substances as vaccines, it (private healthcare) has its own reputation to protect, too,” the 96-year-old lawmaker explained.
The Langkawi MP said he would have supported PM Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had the latter held on to principles, but Dr Mahathir claimed that the government only exists to serve the politicians.
“I would have supported Muhyiddin if he holds on to principle, but no. I couldn’t accept him and he’s prepared to work with Najib then.”
That is part of the reasons why he set up Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, as there were Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia members who no longer wished to remain in the party.
“I set up Pejuang because my party was stolen. I set up Bersatu for the purpose of getting rid of Umno. Many Bersatu members do not want to be in that party, so Pejuang is the avenue.
“I see the country is going downhill, very fast. Nowadays, you can elect the government, but they can buy your government. This is what you see happening in front of your eyes,” he added.
Dr Mahathir said Pejuang members and leaders have to devote themselves in the party’s struggle — protecting Malay’s interest which he feels neither Umno or Pas is doing at the moment.
“We have to dedicate ourselves to our religion and country. Importantly, we must focus on our battle against corruption. Pejuang’s people have to swear on the Quran that they cannot accept nor give any bribes,” Dr Mahathir said.
He acknowledged that Malay parties are split into eight now.
“They will be fighting each other if they contest in the election. So, the Chinese will determine who is the winner,” Dr Mahathir said.
On Pejuang’s role, Dr Mahathir said the party will not pledge the support to any person for the PM post, but more on the commitment for the betterment of Malaysia.
“We will (pledge) support not to the person, but (based) on what you do,” he said. Idealistically, Dr Mahathir said it is time to give younger people with idealism in improving the nation to lead Malaysia.
Acknowledging his age, the statesman said he has no desire to be in power, but looks forward to exchanging ideas to move the nation out of this crisis. The current administration, he said, even refused to have bipartisan discussion on the matter.
“I can only advise, I do not have to be in power, I do not want to be the PM, but please listen to my advice. I hate to say this about myself, but my strength is ideas. I know a lot of things that can be done, should be done, and I know how to make things happen,” he concluded.