Letter to Mahathir from Lim Kit Siang

File photo of Malaysia’s Parliament – the country’s highest legislative body, where Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, a Malay, received the vote of confidence from Members of Parliament following his appointment as the country’s 10th Prime Minister.

KUALA LUMPUR: The following is an open letter to former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad from DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang, following the former’s latest contention that Malays were losing their political power.

Final Advice to Mahathir Mohamad

“Before the 15th General Election on 19 November 2022, I advised two doyens of Malaysian politics, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah not to contest in the general election but to take on advisory roles.

Both Mahathir and Razaleigh contested in the 15th General Election and lost, the former — a two-time Prime Minister for a total of some 25 years — even lost his deposit.

I do not expect my final advice to be heeded, but for the good of Mahathir and Malaysia, I have to make it.

I have not met Mahathir since the Sheraton Move political conspiracy in February 2020 and since my retirement from front-line politics in March 2022, so I will make it through an Open Letter.

Mahathir burst into the Malaysian political firmament when he penned “The Malay Dilemma” in 1970 and acquired the appellation of a Malay ultra. His book “The Malay Dilemma” was promptly banned by the first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and the ban was fully supported by Tun Razak and Tun Ismail.

Mahathir joined the Cabinet as Education Minister in 1974 and became the 4th Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003.

In 1991, Mahathir launched Vision 2020 declaring that “By the year 2020, Malaysia can be a united nation, with a confident Malaysian society, infused by strong moral and ethical values, living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust, and resilient”, announcing nine strategic challenges to be met in 2020.

He resigned as Prime Minister in October 2003 but in 2018, led the Pakatan Harapan coalition to end the UMNO political hegemony and became the 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia, lasting 22 months until toppled by the Sheraton Move political conspiracy in February 2020.

In 2021, Mahathir announced the failure of Vision 2020.

In his post-Sheraton Move book, Mahathir criticised Muhyiddin Yassin for his “Malay first” declaration.

But in 2023, Mahathir declared that Malays were losing their political power and that a non-Malay could become Prime Minister of Malaysia in two general elections.

If the Malays have become an endangered race, it is Mahathir’s greatest personal failure for he had twice been Prime Minister for a total of some 25 years. What did he do to save the Malays from becoming an endangered race in Malaysia under his watch?

But it is not true that the Malays have lost political power or become an endangered race, just like when he launched Vision 2020, he was not announcing the beginning of the Malays as an endangered race in Malaysia.

The arguments that the Malays are an endangered race are false and baseless, just like the wild and preposterous allegations of PAS President, Hadi Awang that the DAP is anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-royalty, communist, and promoting Islamophobia, or the allegation that DAP was behind the 2018 government move to ratify ICERD (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) when all DAP leaders in and out of government were ignorant of the move.

Has Mahathir progressed from “The Malaya Dilemma” to “Vision 2020”?

Or has he regressed from “Vision 2020” to a position that is worse than “The Malay Dilemma”?
No political party is asking for a non-Malay Prime Minister in the next few elections.
I am on record as saying that I do not expect to see a non-Malay to become a Prime Minister in my lifetime or even my children’s lifetime.

But the nation’s founding fathers, Onn Jaafar, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Hussein Onn (the first four UMNO Presidents), Tun Tan Cheng Lock, and Tun V.T. Sambanthan envisaged a nation comprising Malays and non-Malays, and that is why there is Article 43 in the Malaysian Constitution which does not limit a Prime Minister to the Malays — where non-Malays are not constitutionally barred from holding the office of Prime Minister.

Why has Mahathir reneged on what he had promised in “Vision 2020” and disagreed with the first four UMNO Presidents that a non-Malay is not constitutionally barred from being the Prime Minister of Malaysia, although it does not look politically likely in this century.

Even the United States of America took 200 years for a black man (Barack Obama) to become President, and nobody could predict when a second black person could again become the US President.

Why is Mahathir opposed to what the first four UMNO Presidents and the nation’s founding fathers had agreed as the original nation-building principles of Malaysia as a plural nation?
The most important question in Malaysia today is whether Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, or region, can reset and return to the original nation-building principles of our nation’s founding fathers had agreed to reunite a very polarised plural society, and make Malaysia a first-rate world-class nation with world-class political, economic, educational, and social systems instead of hurtling along to become a divided, failed, and kleptocratic state on Malaysia’s Centennial in 2057.

Does Mahathir agree?

Is Mahathir to return to Vision 2020 to work for the nation’s reset, and restore the original nation-building principles of plural Malaysia, or is he committed to “The Malay Dilemma”.
“The Malay Dilemma” has led to the 1MDB and Jana Wibawa mega scandals.

After six decades of Malaysian nation-building and half a century of Rukun Negara, we should be talking about the “Malaysian Dilemma” instead of the “Malay Dilemma” or the “Non-Malay Dilemma”.

We have slipped from a first-rate world-class nation to a second-class mediocre country. We have become a nation in decline.

Are we fated to end up as a divided, failed, and kleptocratic state on Malaysia’s Centennial in 2057?

Is Mahathir to spend the rest of his life to champion Vision 2020 where Malaysians, whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, or Kadazans can maximise their potential, or “The Malay Dilemma”?

This is the choice before Mahathir today.

The country and its citizens, whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, or Ibans, are endangered by rampant corruption and unscrupulous incitement of racial and religious emotions.

The 10th Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, have given a tough speech last weekend.
This is the time for tough action!”