Nov 8, 2006

Rafidah Says She Hits Out At Dr Mahathir Because Of His Rash Accusations

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 (Bernama) -- Wanita Umno chief Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz said Tuesday she had to counter the open criticism of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad against the government because it was "rash and tarnished the image of Umno and the government".

She said that as a member of the Cabinet it was her responsibility to counter Dr Mahathir's criticism that the Cabinet was apparently "half-past six", and that she could not accept the ridicule.

"I would be stupid to accept wrong accusations," she said in commenting on the allegations of certain quarters that she apparently did not give due respect to Dr Mahathir when she was the one who had been most supportive of the former prime minister at one time.

Rafidah was the first person to rush to the rostrum to coax Dr Mahathir to withdraw his announced retirement at the 2002 Umno general assembly, to the extent that she broke the heel of a shoe.

"As part of the current Cabinet, I have principles. What is right is right, what is not is not," she said in a special interview at her office.

"If the accusations are rash and incorrect and are directed at Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the present Cabinet and government, it will be too difficult to accept them," she said.

"We do not blindly support anyone. If the leader is good and can be trusted, it is not a problem. But we must know our limits (in supporting a leader)," she said.

Rafidah, who is Minister of International Trade and Industry, said that since Dr Mahathir began criticising the government, she has often been questioned by foreign politicians thus: "Why has Tun (Dr Mahathir) become like that? Why does he criticise the government that he has led before?"

She said she had no answers to these questions.

Asked about the sentiment of Wanita Umno members towards the issue of Dr Mahathir's criticism of the government, Rafidah said Wanita Umno was loyal to leaders.

"For us, party unity is important, and it is improper for anyone to make open criticisms which clearly belittle the present Umno government and undermine the interests of Malays themselves.

"When one criticises the party leadership and government helmed by the Malays, it is similar to criticising our own race, and it will tarnish our image in the eyes of outsiders," she said.

Rafidah said that as far as Wanita Umno was concerned, there were many channels to raise problems and issues with the government and such means should be employed by a former leader (than making open criticisms).

"It is not difficult for him to telephone or communicate one-to-one with the present leaders on any issue (that he wants to raise)," she said.

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