THE recent general elections in Malaysia turned out some interesting results that will continue to attract worldwide attention.
It saw ex-Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamed come out of retirement, aged 92, to join his former enemies to wrest power from his former protégé and successor, ex-Prime Minister NajibRazack, agreeing in the process to serve as PM for only two years and hand power over to another former enemy, Anwar Ibrahim, jailed on alleged sodomy charges.
True to his promise and according to plan, Mahatir requested a Royal Pardon for his intended successor, in the meantime appointing the jailed politician’s wife as Deputy Prime Minister.
The new prime minister has also been quite careful about what he plans to do about the man he succeeded, who is accused of phenomenal graft. But it’s very clear that Mahatir does not plan to let his predecessor off as lightly as his planned successor.
Given Mahatir’s own record during over two decades in office, many prefer to await the fulfilment of the promises and the compromises they will demand. The future is also pregnant with possibilities of an overload of political and religious nuances relating to sexual preferences.
But quite apart from the interesting developments sure to unfold in Malaysia itself, one point of international interest will be how the world’s oldest prime minister will wind his way through the maze of conflict and confusion that continues to plague his nation even after the poll.
Saint Lucia found itself in a similar situation 12 years ago, when Sir John Compton came out of retirement to re-take the leadership of the United Workers Party (UWP) and lead the then opposition party into a major victory against the then ruling SLP.
At the time, young elements in the Cabinet and leadership of the SLP derisively questioned the use and role of ‘an octogenarian’ in today’s politics and referring to him as ‘A toothless tiger’. But Sir John proved that age is just a number — and that in politics, any number can play.
Like Mahatir today, Sir John proved that his faculties were well in place and he proceeded to lead his party and government in the usual way. His age just did not matter.
It took illness to take Sir John out of office – and even on his way out ‘the old man’ remained the defiant and dominant character he was always known to be, his last act being expulsion of the Cabinet minister he blamed for all that went wrong following re-establishment of diplomatic ties with Taiwan against his wishes.
Looking back at Sir John’s tenure during his second coming as ‘an old man’ may – just may — offer some clue as to how Malaysia’s Mahatir will sail through the still stormy waters of Malaysian politics.
Mahatir may also turn out to defy expectations and bring back some of his old-time rule in these new times. After all, the entire opposition depended entirely on him to win the election and the people indeed voted for the alliance he led.
Whether Mahatir will eventually deliver on his promise to hand over to Ibrahim is another Malay matter that Saint Lucians could very well be interested in, given the experience here following the 1979 election, when the SLP’s term in office was short-lived by a power struggle ignited by an alleged failure to deliver on a similar pre-election handover promise.
The two countries are distant, but Sir John and Mahatir did in fact develop a friendship that saw the Malaysian PM visit Saint Lucia on his private yacht for an encounter with his friend and fellow leader.
That tidbit apart, however, whatever happens in Malaysia under Mahatir during his second coming will definitely not revolve around his age. Instead, it will be seen against the background of what he will be able to achieve — and despite his advanced age!