The subject matter covered was not much different from the talk he delivered at Oxford Union in January, yet Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad kept the floor engaged with his wit and humour during his talk at Cambridge Union on Sunday.
The rumblings of a small group of protesters outside were soon drowned by Mahathir’s off-the-cuff speech inside the Cambridge Union Society hall that took the audience from the British rule narrative to the present-day woes faced by the country and the world.
Some of the attendees noted the talk was not much different from the one in Oxford Union because the nonagenarian was steadfast on his stand on many issues, including on the Israel regime that had carved out its own state on the expense of Palestine, the atrocities suffered by Palestinians, as well as Malaysia’s stand on LGBT.
He once again highlighted how Malaysia shifted its focus from the West to the East, and the fear of marginalisation of the smaller countries by the bigger nations.
The crowd was amused when Mahathir pointed out, in jest, that in the English language, people do not mean what they say.
“For example, in Parliament, the speaker is not allowed to speak. Malaysia is a member of the Commonwealth, but there is nothing much in common with the wealth dominated by certain countries. The British acknowledged the Malay sultans as rulers, but the sultans never ruled. Therefore, when they criticise us as dictators, I don’t think they really mean it,” he said, much to the laughter and applause from the audience.
After the speech, when host Adam Davies asked about his return to active politics, Mahathir had this to say; “I came back because the very same opposition that used to call me a dictator decided that I should be their leader, at their request and not mine”.
And Mahathir’s reply to the last question from the floor also drew laughter. When he was asked whether the Pakatan Harapan coalition would be returned in the next election, he replied: “It depends on you. If you vote for us, we will return.”
Also in attendance during the talk was Dr Mahathir’s wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, and Youth and Sports Minister Syed Sadiq Abdul Rahman. Among those who joined the crowd were Cambridge undergraduates, Malaysian undergraduates and Malaysians in the UK.