Sep 5, 2006

Mahathir complains of attempts to shut him out of UMNO

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Extracted from Kyodo News
Mahathir complains of attempts to shut him out of UMNO

(Kyodo) - Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused his hand-picked successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Monday of "going all out" to prevent him from taking his grievances to the ruling party.

Mahathir, who led the government and the ruling United Malays National Organization for 22 years until his retirement in 2003, said there are "fierce maneuverings" to bar him from attending the party's annual assembly in November as a delegate.

"They seem to be going all out," he told reporters. "The intensity of the campaign is surprising."

Mahathir, who has been at loggerheads with Abdullah over a host of issues, wants a face-off at the assembly.

As far as the UMNO leadership is concerned, he will be invited to attend as a former leader as is the custom, but it does not however, give him the privilege of speaking.

Delegates are allowed to speak.

Under UMNO rules, 2,292 delegates elected from the nearly 200 UMNO divisions throughout the country can attend the party assembly, but only a handful of those get the opportunity to speak on stage.

Mahathir's division in Kubang Pasu in his home state in northern Kedah will hold an election this weekend to pick seven delegates to this November meeting.

Normally, it would have been a staid affair until Mahathir threw down the gauntlet last month and decided to take his criticism to the heart of the party, a move that could split UMNO and undermine Abdullah's grip as UMNO head.

Mahathir claimed that members in his division are being pressured not to elect him as a delegate.

"There is no democracy in UMNO. Everything is managed to prevent the leaders from being exposed for what they are doing," he charged.

He also complained of attempts to close all avenues for him to speak or be heard, including in non-UMNO events and in the mainstream media.

"I have to be shut out completely, that my mouth should be muzzled," he said. "I sense there is a climate of fear in UMNO now. No one dares to speak now except in whispers."

UMNO, with about 3.3 million members, is the dominant party in the ruling National Front coalition that has governed Malaysia since independence in 1957.

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