It was rather intriguing to read about the recent town hall meeting that featured former prime minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and his frenemy Lim Kit Siang. During the What Say Youth forum the two longtime politicians had fielded a number of questions from the audience on a variety of issues. It was obvious from the onset the whole exercise was intended to humanize the one-time strongman’s image as well as to dispel any nuances of friction between the two men.

The dialogue had however left some of the youth dissatisfied and somewhat agitated, perhaps with good reason. One could say that Tun Dr. Mahathir’s retort throughout the session left much to be desired. For example, his response to the use of the Internal Security Act during the Ops Lalang crackdown was clearly to deflect blame away from him despite being leader at the time. Yet any police or military action taken in Malaysia is done with the blessing of the top leader. The former leader had also spoken on the danger of allowing an individual to serve as prime minister for too long.  But he failed to enlighten the audience on how the opposition coalition plan to limit the prime minister’s power. Ironically Tun Dr. Mahathir himself was guilty of staying in power for too long, 22-years to be exact.

It is evident that both the opposition and Barisan Nasional are vying for youth votes. It is interesting to note though that according to a survey by Merdeka Center in September it found that youth are not that interested in the upcoming general elections. Among the reasons for such sentiments is due to the distrust they have for politicians. The political mudslinging, smear campaigns etc would only serve to alienate young voters further. Tun Dr. Mahathir’s attempt to absolve himself of any transgression is not only ironic to say the least but underscores why Malaysian youths are greatly distrustful of the country’s leaders.


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