When you’re almost 90 years old, it’s quite forgivable that you don’t have fingertip recall of every momentous event.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself admits that “with age our memory fails on details” and additionally reveals he cannot even remember the date he was married, much to Siti Hasmah’s chagrin.
He says, “If you ask me what did I do on 12th August 1982, or on any other day, I would not be able to tell you.”
This is more so if you’d been a Prime Minister of 22 years, meaning that you would have been a very busy man with a daily jam-packed schedule.
As for me, I’m willing to accept that, yeah, sometimes some things just slip the ex-premier’s mind. One of these is the fact of how the MCA traitorously failed the Alliance.
The passage of time – and Dr M’s companionable relationship with fellow doctor Ling Liong Sik, the (former) MCA president – has softened his recollection of the MCA’s role in the May 1969 general election disastrous outcome.
Luckily we have Dr Mahathir’s book The Way Forward that records for posterity his take on the 10 May 1969 election repercussions and ramifications.
The Way Forward was published in 1998 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (The Orion Publishing Group Ltd), London.
On page 47 of the book, Dr M wrote: “The Chinese in the MCA quite openly showed their desire not to support the Alliance candidates, whether Chinese or Malay. So their participation in the Alliance campaign was nominal.”
He added, “Of course, the non-MCA Chinese made no attempt to hide their anti-Malay sentiments” (page 47).
On page 48, Dr M wrote:
“When all the results were in, the Alliance majority had been greatly reduced. The MCA had done particularly badly, indicating a major swing away from the Alliance amongst the whole Chinese community.
“In a calculated gamble, the Chinese had opted for tactical voting in the Malay majority seats [giving their votes to PAS]. But then the Chinese are inveterate risk takers.”
On page 49, Dr M wrote:
“The Alliance was unable to form governments in Perak and Selangor, where it failed to win a clear majority of seats. The opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) tried to form a coalition with PMIP in Perak, but this failed. Negotiations went on in Selangor to try and for a coalition between the Alliance and one of the minority opposition parties.”
On page 50, Dr M wrote:
“As peace was re-established, a debate arose as to the future of politics in Malaysia. Was the Alliance, which had actually won the election, albeit with a reduced majority, the right coalition to form the Government? The MCA had done badly in the 1969 elections, and had obviously lost the support of the majority of the Chinese. Should it continue to represent the Chinese in the Alliance coalition? A fierce debate raged in the press over this question. Many Malays expressed the view that the MCA had failed the Alliance and should not be represented in the Government.
On page 51, Dr M wrote:
“Clearly, the trend was towards a break-up of the Alliance Chinese, Malay and Indian parties, and towards racial confrontation rather than co-operation.”
To retread the eerily identical ground:
The MCA had done badly in the 2008 and 2013 elections, and had obviously lost the support of the majority of the Chinese.
Should it continue to represent the Chinese in the BN coalition?
A fierce debate raged in the social and new media over this question. Many Malays expressed the view that the MCA had failed the BN and should not be represented in the Government.