Mahathir is still trying to cobble his full cabinet together, a task made difficult by the fact that he desires a smaller cabinet but has to balance demands for representation from PH’s four component parties.
He has also been busy dismantling old structures under the Najib’s administration and putting the axe to certain top civil servants and key posts, replacing the attorney-general, the anti-corruption body’s chief, and ensuring the resignations of the chief justice and court of appeal president.
Tun M has made its first and foremost priority of the prosecution of those involved in the 1MDB scandal. Tun M 2.0 may actually be more powerful and influential than Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad 1.0. At least, that is the perception. If Tun M of 1981-2003 derived his power from ruthlessness and single-mindedness of ambition, Tun M of 2018- has the all of the above, and more.
After his shock election win, Tun M moved swiftly against Najib; banning him from leaving the country and planning to reopen a probe into a multi-billion dollars scandal at a state fund that Najib helped set up. His action is followed through by his appointed finance minister, Lim Guan Eng. Ever since he became Finance Minister, Guan Eng tried to turn the media into a courtroom. Various issues were exposed in the media with the objective to find fault and sentencing.
To tighten his grip on Najib, Tun M nominated Tommy Thomas as the new Attorney General and former MACC deputy reappointed to investigate scandal after having to flee to Washington the first time around.
To date, Tun M has officially slammed the brakes on two major transportation mega projects – the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail (HSR), as well as the third Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT3) line project, while another mega project, the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL), is still being studied.
His move was backed by Guan Eng. In his recent statement, the government’s decision this week to scrap the high-speed rail (HSR) project was not only due to the high price tag of building it, but also steep cost burden to maintain the 350km link in the longer term.
Tun M enjoys the solid backing of a cabinet and the Pakatan Harapan government who want what he wants. Today, he has an army of grateful Malaysians who feel empowered and liberated by the fall of Najib Razak and Barisan Nasional. Tun M enjoyed periods of popularity in his first tour as the PM but this is different.
The question on whether he is the same man, what we know is that this version of Tun M this Dr Mahathir does not need to whip Malaysians into a frenzy over the excesses of the country’s elite the way he did in the 1980s and 1992. No need to manufacture any groundswell, because the tide of fury at the excesses of the rich, famous and connected was on full show on May 9.