Report: A ways to go — Mahathir’s first 100 days in office analyzed

One hundred days in office for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Pakatan Harapan have passed, and many are curiously looking at this old-is-new government to see how the coalition is doing in fulfilling their election promises.

According to The Economist, there’s still quite a long way to go and they’ve dedicated an extensive feature this week to summarizing the state of things here in the Southeast Asian nation.

Are the critiques fair? Yes.

Is it unusual for elected governments to not always entirely follow through on their campaign promises? Oh, hell yeah (not an excuse).

Digging deep into the recesses of our mind to those dark days before the regime-changing 14th General Election, you may recall that most of us had zero inkling that PH would win this thing, and arguably – neither did they.

Campaign promises at the time guaranteeing a waiver of tolls on our highways seemed far-fetched even to the most hopeful citizen: If giving them RM2.50 to ensure that the road is smooth, clean and well-managed, we’re willing to contribute to that.

It came as no surprise that a couple of weeks ago, a sheepish explanation from a national investment chief explained that it was “it’s complicated,” and won’t be abolished anytime soon.

However, the international publication highlights that the new regime has been true to their word on several other promises, from the prosecution of former Prime Minister Najib Razak, currently out on bail but still being hit with a litany of charges alleging graft, and abuse of power relating to the US$4.5 billion that went missing from the state investment fund, 1MDB.

There was the speedy removal of the unpopular six-percent good and services tax, and with it the RM45 billion (US$10.5 billion) of revenue that it brought it. The government hopes that the soon-to-be introduced sales tax will compensate for some of this loss, while also being less of a hit to the consumer. For many citizens who don’t follow the ins and outs of finance, there is much confusion as to how and to whom this will be calculated.

In his 90-plus years, Mahathir has never been one to kowtow to world powers, and his re-re-election indicates he has no problem upsetting neighbors either. Promises to review big-budget infrastructure project partnerships with the Chinese have been fulfilled, and many put on hold pending review. Then there the high-speed rail project between KL and Singapore that came to a screeching halt, and left our neighbors on the other side of the Causeway reeling.

Not bad, Mahathir. Not bad at all.

However, for many it’s quite simply not enough, and as The Economist puts it, PM Mahathir’s autocratic style has essentially made him “chief of everything.” It’s created a “bureaucratic bottleneck” where every issue needs his final input, and the “advice of cronies, as well as of an unelected council of bigwigs selected by (the PM) himself.”

Well, when you say it like that … yes, it doesn’t sound exactly promising.

On the ground, there is still a lightened feeling among regular citizens, albeit with scratched rose-colored lenses: Issues that were near and dear to the hearts of many PH voters are either being dragged painfully through parliament, or have fallen by the wayside completely.

Ending child marriage, a great unifier of things we as a modern nation will not tolerate, seems to be getting a dilution from our own Deputy Prime Minister, who dilly dallies when asked for solid comment regarding the on-going problem: “It would be unjust to lynch someone by social media because of how we feel about the issue,” said DPM Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail over the confirmed case of a 41-year-old man taking an 11-year-old child openly as his bride who he is “in love with.”

How difficult is it to convince a civil society that marrying a child to an old man is wrong, and needs to be criminalized, many began to wonder.

Concerted inclusiveness for all all of Malaysia’s races in leading government roles that had previously been Malay-only, such as a Chinese Finance Minister, and an Indian Attorney General have been lauded by many (us!); however, the abolishment of pro-Malay policies has been shelved indefinitely for what many believe is simply fear of losing voters.

Recent cases of discrimination towards member of the LGBTQ+ community have raised the alarm for many of our country’s citizens: After the portraits of two prominent LGBTQ+ activists were removed from a non-political photo exhibition at the request of an Islamic Affairs office member, many worried that we had elected more of the same, but under a different name.

Are we surprised? No. Not when the Youth Ministry allowed for their press officer (a non-elected role, fyi) to “resign” without the shadow of resistance after certain rabble rousers began to take issue with his pro LGBTQ+ stance.

Reviewing one of Najib’s last laws to come into action, the Anti-Fake News Act 2018, was another campaign promise. Only now was dragged, kicking and screaming, to the table for repeal. This is after lawyers, civil rights groups and activists all agreed that it was overriding and obfuscating in its intent and reach, with loose views on what “fake” meant, but with a heavy sentence for those who were found guilty.

What of the Sedition Act, asked the magazine? It’s still going strong, and has largely been used to prosecute government critics.

Then there’s the uncertainty of whether Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the party that has the greatest way in the PH coalition, will ever actually take over in two years from Dr Mahathir, as had previously been indicated during the election. “It was only a suggestion,” said the PM.

Approval ratings have waned, but they’ve not nosedived: However, citizens are watching the comings and goings with a close eye.

Local news outlet New Strait Times spoke to one PH’s Manifesto Committee chairman, Dr. Rais Hussin Mohamad Ariff, over the fulfillment of the oeuvre’s promises this week.

Wondering why some of the key ten election promises were not yet realized, the chairman explained that they were always intended to be implemented in two phases, with the second wave needing five years to complete.

Patience, he asked. “Rome was not built in a day.”

Sure, but when you’re still reeling from Caligula’s antics, we’re looking for Trajan and Vespasian levels of leadership.  You catch our drift?

 

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