TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad may have quit Umno but he still figures largely in the speeches and debates of the delegates attending the meeting of the three wings at the ongoing Umno general assembly.
Even actress Fathia Latiff came under fire for “meddling in Government affairs” over Dr Mahathir.
In his policy speech, Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin dismantled the myth that Malaysia under Dr Mahathir’s time was better than that under Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Presenting his case on why Barisan Nasional was the better choice for voters, Khairy said it was dangerous to be taken in by “misplaced nostalgia” and the “fairy tale” about Dr Mahathir’s 22-year rule.
With Dr Mahathir now chairman of Pakatan Harapan, Khairy also hit out against what he called the false hope offered by the Opposition in contrast to the real transformation that Barisan was delivering.
“There are youths who defend Pakatan by saying, ‘now, Pakatan has Tun M. When he was in power, things were great.’
“That’s what I mean by misplaced nostalgia. (It’s) as though in his time, the Government was just, the people had power, there was no dictatorship and everything was transparent.
“As though everything good today was built by him, and everything bad is our fault,” Khairy said at the Umno Youth assembly.
He said old records of Dr Mahathir’s administration had to be reviewed to correct this misplaced nostalgia.
Khairy said while iconic projects such as the Twin Towers, Putrajaya or Sepang International Circuit were built during Dr Mahathir’s time, these had little benefit for rural areas and communities.
In contrast, Khairy said key projects being developed under Najib’s administration had greater spillover effects benefiting more Malaysians, such as the Pan Borneo Highway and East Coast Rail Link.
Malaysians, said Khairy, should not be taken in by the misplaced nostalgia that Dr Mahathir was a mighty leader.
“Within the party, the Government (and) the nation, there existed a culture of fear. Iron fist. Yet, now he speaks as though he was pure and we are cruel dictators.”
While misplaced nostalgia was harmful, Khairy said what was more dangerous was the false hope offered by Pakatan.
“The best Government for us, as well as our children, is one which will take tomorrow as seriously as today, if not more.
“One that ensures the future has to be better than it is now and not the other way around.”
Puteri Umno exco member Khaidhirah Abu Zahar took a jab at actress Fathia Latiff, who posted about Dr Mahathir on Instagram, saying that his contributions to the country seemed to have been forgotten.
“If she really wants to talk about the struggles of the people, then go on the ground like Puteri Umno.
“If she just wants to simply type words using her smartphone, then there’s no need. She can sit quietly (and) work on her acting and herself. There’s no need to meddle in Government affairs,” said Khaidhirah.
Umno Youth member Adam Reza said it was remarkable how Dr Mahathir – once dubbed as “Maha-Firaun” – was now being paraded by the Opposition as the country’s saviour.
“It is in this context that Khairy was quick to remind us that obsession with nostalgia only offers us political poison – more so when this nostalgia is misplaced.
“Consider the billions of ringgit in losses during the Mahathir era due to economic mismanagement, the inequitable development policies centred solely in the Klang Valley, neglecting states such as Sarawak and Sabah; and not to mention the trampling on our democratic and royal institutions,” Adam, who is a public affairs and political risk consultant, wrote in an article.
In his debate, Baling Umno Youth chief Mohamed Noor Mohamed Alim called on the Government to investigate Dr Mahathir’s wealth and for authorities to take action against those implicated in the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Bank Negara’s forex losses in the 1990s.