Don’t disregard Dr M just because of his age

Don’t disregard Dr M just because of his age
By Zan Azlee

So there was much interest in the media and among the public when former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad gatecrashed a forum that was titled “Adakah Tun M terlalu tua untuk menjadi PM?” (Is Mahathir too old to be PM?”) which was organised by newspaper Sinar Harian.

The panellists included political science lecturer Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, psychologist Dr Mat Saat Mohd Baki, fitness guru Kevin Zahri Abdul Ghaffar and the moderator was my former colleague and journalist Nazri Kahar.

I think that the interest wasn’t the actual forum discussion. It was more of the fact that people were interested in knowing what happened to the panellists and if they actually felt comfortable speaking freely when the person they were speaking about was present.

It was sensational and nothing more than that. Mahathir’s tweet was testament to that. He posted a picture of himself at the forum and wrote “Ada forum bertajuk, Adakah Tun M terlalu tua untuk jadi PM? Saya hadir. (There’s a forum titled, Is Mahathir too old to be PM? I am attending it.) I’m here guys. Say it to my face.”

For example, Kamarul Zaman Yusoff was quite hard-hitting with his criticism of Dr Mahathir. But when the latter arrived, Kamarul immediately softened his stance.

He then said that he only had one question for the former prime minister, and that was why did he change his mind about being the prime minister when he had stated before in 2016 that he would not want to be the country’s leader of the opposition if it won the 14th general election.

Actually, there wasn’t much reported about what was discussed by the panellists at the forum. Most news reports just focused on the fact that Mahathir’s entourage entered the hall an hour into the forum and caused a stir among the audience.

The media also reported that Mahathir informed the panellists and attendees that he was persuaded by the rest of the opposition and many Umno members to run against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak. He also shared advice on how he maintained his good health despite his age of 93.

Don’t be ageist

Actually, age shouldn’t be a factor when it comes to politics, or in anything really. As long as the person is matured and an adult, he or she should just be evaluated and judged on merits. The discussion that happened was really quite general, cliched and stereotyping.

Kamarul Zaman had harped on about how his research showed that the older a person got in age, his motor skills and mental skills start to slow down. He was referring to what looked like notes on a piece of paper. His mastery of the subject wasn’t very convincing.

I have to say that what he said was quite a generalisation and it all really depends on the individual. I know people who are much younger than 93 and who have already started slowing down when it comes to their mental and motor capabilities, and vice versa.

Another factor that was brought up was the fact that older people might not be too receptive or encouraging when it comes to change. And hence someone who is 93 years old might not be a good candidate to lead a country that requires so much changing. I wonder if Kamarul Zaman had even met Mahathir to diagnose him as being too old.

I have to debunk this because there have been many instances in my career as a media and content consultant where I have met people much older than me who have had such fresh and bright ideas that amaze me.

Again, this really depends on the individual and his or her knowledge, mentality, open-mindedness and thought process. If a 93-year-old constantly seeks new knowledge and is open to new and different ideas, he or she could be just as a good a catalyst for change than someone half his or her age.

I am not really a big supporter of Mahathir being the next prime minister, or should I say, I am quite indifferent to it. And it is definitely not because of his age. I really just want a change from what has been the status quo for the past six decades.

But I think the discussion that the panellists, specifically the ideas brought forward by Kamarul Zaman, are quite generalising and stereotyping. He should not be ageist. He should practice what he preaches and act his age (much younger than 93, I would presume).

Be more open-minded and accepting of change and of something different. Who knows? It could even mean being open to having a state leader who is 93 years old and has a wealth of experience, but yet is still open to change.

[This article was originally written for and published at]

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