Treading old ground.
Mahathir Mohamad, erstwhile Malaysian Prime Minister, fired another broadside at his former protege-turned-rival-turned-coalition partner-turned-rival-again, Anwar Ibrahim.
In an interview with the Malaysian Insight published on Nov. 14, Mahathir claimed that Anwar would not make a good Prime Minister because he did not perform up to his expectations during a two-month stretch in 1997.
Mahathir took a sabbatical for two months, and Anwar, who was then Deputy Prime Minister, was left in charge.
However, that was the year that the Asian Financial Crisis hit the country.
Anwar not capable: Mahathir
According to 2020 Mahathir, sounding much the same as 1990s Mahathir, Anwar’s performance during the crisis did not fill him with confidence.
“I have tested his capabilities when I was Prime Minister. I took a holiday for two months and Anwar took over the reins. We had an economic crisis at the time, and his suggestions did not help the country recover its financial standings,” he said.
Mahathir added, “That is why I had to take over from the finance minister and come up with plans to save the country from economic woes…I do not know how the people saw this, but what was clear during the financial crisis in 1997 was, Anwar was not capable.”
Mahathir clashed with Anwar over the response to the crisis, in particular, accepting reform suggestions from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Mahathir eventually sacked Anwar, who later headed the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
Former allies in familiar roles
Back in June 2020, Anwar wrote at length about his response to the crisis, defending his actions and criticising Mahathir’s approach.
According to the Malay Mail, he said he did not accept the IMF recommendations outright, but saw them as an opportunity to reform the graft-ridden system.
He also said that Mahathir’s move to impose capital controls came at a time after the worst of the damage was already done, and his move to peg the ringgit hurt investor confidence in Malaysia.
Anwar’s team-up with Mahathir to take down the Barisan Nasional government in the 2018 general election feels like a lifetime ago.
Since then, the Pakatan Harapan government has been overthrown and UMNO is back in power together with Bersatu.
Mahathir himself has left Bersatu and set up yet another party, Pejuang.
In response to Mahathir’s interview, PKR spokesperson and information chief Shamsul Iskandar said that the nonagenarian was trying to maintain relevance and thwart Pakatan Harapan’s attempt to return to power.
By : Sulaiman Daud – MOTHERSHIP