PUTRAJAYA, Oct 28 — The “lunatic fringe” have taken a hold of Malaysia, as the ruling Barisan Nasional struggles to deal with diminished public support despite retaining its hold on government, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamed said today.
He said the administration of current Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is weak and feels it needs to entertain “unreasonable demands” from extremist groups, especially from the opposition, to remain relevant to the public.
“The political situation now is unstable because the perception is that the government is weak and the lunatic fringe now hold sway over politics in the country,” he said in his keynote address at the Perdana Discourse Series 17 here.
“We have a government that is weak because of weak support from the people, and with a tendency to accede to the demands of extremists in the opposition.
“The worst part is that they make extreme demands to unseat the government... the government can get rid of whatever they don’t like, but if you think that they will then say ‘thanks, we will support you now’, you are mistaken,” he said, without naming any groups.
Over his 22-year tenure as prime minister, Dr Mahathir has been accused of being high-handed in dealing with political dissention, particularly when hundreds of people were detained using the now-repealed Internal Security Act during the infamous Ops Lalang in the 1980s.
He is also a patron to Malay rights group Perkasa, which many quarters have blamed for inflaming public sentiments on various issues such as the continuation of affirmative action policies for the majority Malay and Bumiputera community, and also religion such as the use of the word Allah by Catholic weekly the Herald.
Speaking today on the topic of “Current Political Trends and Their Impact on the Economic and Social Direction of Malaysia”, Dr Mahathir appealed to the “moderate majority” to have more courage to speak their minds and at the same time for the government to pay more attention to the largely silent majority.
He argued that there is no need for the government to entertain the demands of extremist groups, as it would not benefit the government nor would it contribute to national development.
“There are other ways to deal with extremists. One way is to understand the thinking of the moderates on the other side, and hopefully convince them that they can work together to promote more stability.
“This is a clear example of politics impacting on the economy because when the government is seen as weak and entertains the demands of extremists, the growth of the country is in danger.
“I hope that the moderates will prevail. They must be brave enough to make choices, not in their own interests but for the good of the nation, for good politics and the good of society,” he said.