A national leader is usually given 100 days to articulate and implement some of his “big objectives”, but Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad does not have that luxury. He is riding high on the euphoria of Malaysians getting rid of the previous administration, and the people harbor a genuine fondness and sense of gratitude towards him. This is an incredible phenomenon considering the hostility that many who now circle him once showed him not so long ago. I remember clearly the verbal abuse I received from some who viewed my advocacy for Tun Dr Mahathir leading the Opposition, and how they decried this as a betrayal of the Opposition cause.
Because he is so popular and the feel-good factor is so pervasive, he needs to start doing the right thing now rather than later. Getting the right people to advise and support him, such Tan Sri Mohd Hassan Marican, Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz, Tun Daim Zainuddin, Tan Rafidah Aziz and Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazir Razak amongst others is paramount. This may be unpopular with some but Tun will need them as they would provide the confidence that some serious planning is underway. The pool of talent that he must reach out to has to go beyond the conventional party alliances.
Releasing Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim from jail on Monday as opposed to next month will earn Tun massive public support—this is the sort of thing he can do easily that will attract a lot of mileage. Anwar is a unifying force that Tun Dr Mahathir can use for the benefit of his administration.
Institutional reforms are a must and some can start immediately. Tun must get some of the key hatchet men in the previous administration to resign and appoint fresh and credible leaders to take their places. Again, this will give him and the new appointees time to implement a proper plan that people expect from him. Tun knows better than anyone else that it’s always easy to talk of changing and reforming the system, but it requires technocrats with belief, grit and passion to be serious reformists.
The coalition partners such as DAP, PKR, Amanah and Warisan will want juicy appointments and some serious lobbying is already underway, but Tun must balance the need to placate the demands of his political allies with the need to seek the services of a wider pool of capable leaders to sort out the economy and our policies. He needs to focus on fixing the many national problems we have and empowering those from among the poorer communities in the country.
Tun’s own party has only 12 seats in Parliament and that naturally makes him vulnerable, but he must be willing to take risks by co-opting leaders from other parties or organisations into the fold if that means solving the nation’s problems. He is not just a leader of Pakatan Harapan but also sees himself as the leader of our national reconciliation team. That’s how I think he should start.