Veteran politician and former political detainee Syed Husin Ali has reminded those sceptical about former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s real intentions in joining the ranks of the opposition that friends and foes constantly change in politics.
He said only time will tell if Mahathir, who is founding chairman of PPBM, will remain an ally of other Pakatan Harapan (PH) parties in the future.
“If Pakatan wins in the next general election (GE14), then we will see whether Mahathir remains an ally or whether he becomes Pakatan’s enemy again,” he said.
He said although Mahathir was the number one enemy of the opposition during the Reformasi movement that began in 1998 against his rule, this was no longer the case.
“Today, the main enemies of Pakatan and other opposition parties are Prime Minister Najib Razak and a small number of people in Umno,” he said in his speech at the launch of his book “Sejarah Rakyat Malaysia” (History of the Malaysian People) at Gerakbudaya here today.
“Mahathir, on the other hand, has been adopted as an ally by Pakatan because the coalition sees the advantage of working with him,” he added.
Mahathir, 92, was prime minister and Umno president for 22 years until 2003. He quit the party in 2015 and set up PPBM in September last year.
In March this year, PPBM was accepted as a component of PH, alongside PKR, DAP and Amanah.
Following this, Mahathir was appointed chairman of PH in July, with PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim being made the coalition’s de facto head and PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail appointed as its president.
In September 1998, Mahathir had expelled Anwar, who was then deputy prime minister and Umno deputy president, from the government and the party, triggering a rejuvenated opposition movement against him led by Anwar.
Earlier during the launch, Wan Azizah, who is Anwar’s wife, had touched on the Reformasi movement and the Mahathir factor in its origins.
“The Reformasi era began after Anwar Ibrahim was fired and jailed. So we may say that the person responsible for igniting the era was Mahathir,” she said.
She said a vigil held last night for PKR’s Batu MP Tian Chua, who was put in jail to serve a month-long prison sentence on September 29, reminded her of the Reformasi days despite the ironic presence of Mahathir at the event.
“I saw Mahathir there, joining the vigil, and I asked myself what he must be feeling,” she said.
The vigil called “Solidarity4TianChua” held at Jalan Sentul saw PH leaders describing Tian Chua as a brave man.
Syed Husin was detained without trial from December 1974 to September 1980.
He and Anwar were among a number of activists involved in demonstrations against poverty faced by farmers and rubber tappers in Baling and the surrounding areas where some were said to have died of starvation that year.
The two were detained under the now repealed Internal Security Act (ISA), along with Kamaruzaman Yaakob, who was then Universiti Malaya student association president.
Syed Husin became PKR deputy president following the merger of Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM), of which he was president, and Parti Keadilan Nasional (keADILan) in 2003.-FMT