On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

All we hope for is a fresh beginning

After all, it was their first four-eyed meeting, but all hopes seem to be shattered now. 

While Malaysians expect some bits of information from the meeting, they
would have respected some form of confidentiality and discretion.
Certainly, Malaysians are realistic enough not to expect instant

The spirit of forgiveness during Hari Raya, however, spurred many of us
to believe that positive results, however little they may be, would
emerge from the meeting. 

Malaysians generally hoped for the best from Dr Mahathir and Abdullah, who are held in high esteem by many of us. 

We would like to see the spat between the two leaders end. Even as the
prospect of another meeting seems remote now, many still pray that the
feud would end. 

The criticism by Dr Mahathir so soon after the meeting must have caught
many by surprise. The follow-up criticisms stunned us further. 

It would not be wrong to say that Dr Mahathir, who has been consistent
in saying he could continue his criticism, could have waited at least
until the festival was over. 

Surely it would not be wrong to say that politics should be put aside as Malaysians celebrate the Hari Raya. 

But the mood has been dampened. The favourite topic of conversation at
many Hari Raya open houses, unfortunately, was the criticism by Dr

While the Prime Minister chose to remain silent on the first day of
Hari Raya, he subsequently rebuked Dr Mahathir, using strong language. 

Those who know Abdullah would testify that he is certainly one of the
nicest men around. Polite, soft-spoken and forgiving, he has seldom
flexed his muscles, even if he showed signs of losing his patience. 

Showing his frustration, Abdullah said he was "disappointed and sad"
over the row and blamed Dr Mahathir for continuing the dispute, saying
there were "heavy doses of venom". 

The message is clear – Abdullah is ready to act and talk tough. He is
in combative spirit. No one should even suggest that he is not in
control. He certainly is, no doubt about that. 

But the feud, where an angrier tone has emerged, has also worried
ordinary Malaysians. After six months, when emotions should have been
more controlled and even settled, it has entered into a somewhat ugly

Even if the parties involved in the feud show no signs of losing steam, Malaysians are generally tired. 

Newspaper offices have been receiving telephone calls from readers
complaining that news of the political standoff has worn them down. 

For good or bad, the Prime Minister should be left to carry out what he
has been mandated to do. He is answerable to 25million people, not one
or two persons. 

His style of leadership may be different and some may even dislike it.
After all, we are used to Dr Mahathir's 22 years of fast-paced

Dr Mahathir has said he has lost his patience, pointing out that the economy is not chugging fast enough. 

He has also said that he is speaking up on issues which many Umno
politicians dared not touch on, especially issues relating to
Abdullah's family members. He has managed to say what he had to say
directly to Abdullah. 

Dr Mahathir is entitled to his opinions and certainly there would be
Malaysians who share his views. His concerns surely deserve attention
and action. 

But others would also say that not enough credit has been given to the Prime Minister. 

There is certainly bigger democratic space and greater tolerance for
dissenting views. More space has surely been given to government
critics and not many share the view that Malaysia has become a police

At the international level, Abdullah has mended fences with countries
which had difficulties dealing with the previous administration. 

In short, it is only fair that the Prime Minister be allowed to carry on with his responsibilities. 

But after the series of strong words last week, many Malaysians cannot
be blamed if they have given up hope of any future peace talk. 

The doors may seem to be closed now. At this point, no one would even want to talk of another meeting. 

But as we approach a new year, a new beginning is what most Malaysians
would want to see. For sure, we do not want the same issue to drag on
into the new year.