Apr 16, 2008

NST Newspaper Blasts Ruling Party For Election Losses

New Straits Times Press, NTSP which is indirectly owned by UMNO is now criticizing the current President of UMNO?.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Malaysia's main pro-government newspaper lashed out Wednesday (16 Apr) at the ruling party for its recent election losses, describing its members as boors and louts, in an unprecedented front-page editorial.

The New Straits Times daily also criticized Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, albeit mildly, saying he was paying the price for failing to control unruly members who made the party unpopular, while calling for retired politicians to let him do his job - a thinly veiled swipe at former leader Mahathir Mohamad.

The Times is indirectly owned by Abdullah's United Malays National Organization, or UMNO, the dominant party in the National Front coalition that has been in power for 51 years.

The coalition's grip on power weakened enormously in the 8 Mar general elections when it lost its traditional two-thirds majority in the 222-member Parliament, conceding 82 seats to the opposition. The Front also lost five of Malaysia's 13 states to the opposition, in its worst showing in history.

The party has since been "bickering, pointing fingers, baying for vengeance and doing everything imaginable except rolling up its sleeves and getting down to the work of governing," the editorial said.

"People are getting fed up with UMNO's moaning and groaning. ... The truth is that the people have long been disgusted with the kind of boorish and loutish behavior that UMNO leaders have exemplified because of their grip on power since independence in 1957."

Political analysts were stunned by this unusual outburst from a newspaper that is regarded as a party mouthpiece.

Tricia Yeoh, director of the Center for Public Policy Studies think tank, said it was difficult to say who directed the editorial but suggested it could have been Abdullah's camp, which wants the bickering to stop before a party congress in December when Abdullah is expected to stand for re-election as party president.

"They need the time and space between now and December to do their job. If they don't, there will be a bigger blame game when December comes," she told The Associated Press.

"Those who have been elected have these few months to prove they can do it," he said.

The editorial listed some events that led to the plummeting popularity of the party, which claims to represent Malaysia's majority Malay Muslims. About 40 percent of the population are ethnic Chinese and Indians.

The newspaper cited the party's general assembly last year, when youth-wing leader Hishamuddin Hussein waved a traditional Malay dagger, or kris, and warned minorities not to question Malay rights.

"Brandishing the kris was hurtful to the non-Malays, but the party leadership did nothing to take the UMNO Youth chief to task," it said. The leadership also did not stop the racist and inflammatory rhetoric of the delegates in 2006, it said.

The destruction of a Hindu temple by authorities last year angered Indian voters and again UMNO leaders kept quiet.

Abdullah "is now paying for these and other acts of omission, including the undeliverable promises of change that he made when he first became prime minister in 2003," it said.

Asking for Abdullah's head, as dissidents have demanded, is not the solution, it said, in reference to the former prime minister, Mahathir, who is leading the anti-Abdullah campaign.

Abdullah "should be allowed to get on with it. But all the worms crawling out of the UMNO woodwork _ especially the retired and those with shelf lives past due who have found new breath in their calls for a party coup won't let him," it said.

The editorial concluded by saying that governing the nation is more important than private peeves and settling of scores.

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