So finally the PM has spoken.
KUALA LUMPUR, April 6 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, while acknowledging that his predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has strengths and influence, Sunday pointedly stated that the latter had misused these to the extent of undermining Umno.
The Umno president and prime minister who had before said that he would not bow to pressure for him to step down, also answered the criticisms levelled against him by Dr Mahathir.
Speaking to reporters after a briefing for the Umno information machinery on the outcome of the recent general election, the usually reticent Abdullah showed a different side of him.
"Tun Dr Mahathir said he was strong, but he has misused that strength. When Barisan Nasional (BN) won big in the 2004 general election, he said (BN was) too strong, not good, needed to have opposition."
"In the recent elections when the opposition did well (winning 82 of the 222 parliamentary seats), we thought he would be celebrating, but he hit out at us instead. Why? "You shouldn't win too many (seats) then, and now you shouldn't win a few?," said Abdullah.
Asked whether he would fight head on with Dr Mahathir based on the tone of his statement, Abdullah said: I say what I only need to say, and don't say what I don't need to."
Abdullah said he was aware that the people wanted him to start addressing issues that were important to them so that Umno would remain strong and have the people's confidence.
He also refuted the claim by some quarters that he was a softy and left all the decisions to his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin.
"Under my leadership, they say there is no freedom, but at the same say that I am 'lembik' (soft). Scared of the 'si lembik' (the softy)?
"The rest are all stupid, only Khairy is clever," he said, referring to Dr Mahathir's accusation that Abdullah allowed himself to be influenced by his son- in-law in running the country and in making decisions.
"This accusation is baseless," he said, adding that when Dr Mahathir was prime minister, the government imposed certain restrictions like asking the press not to use the pictures of former prime minister, the late Tun Hussein Onn.
On the offer by Gua Musang Member of Parliament Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to contest the Umno president's post in the party elections in December, with the aim of restoring Umno, Abdullah said the Kelantan Umno leader needed to look at himself first and why BN failed to wrest the state from PAS.
"Ku Li (Tengku Razaleigh) should look at himself, as he was the cause of Kelantan falling into the hands of PAS. While PAS ruled Kelantan, he did once tried to win back the state for BN but he failed." Kelantan fell to PAS in 1990 by cooperating with Semangat 46 led by Tengku Razaleigh then. In the 2004 general election, BN almost wrest back the state when it won 21 of the 45 state seats and one more seat when it won the Pengkalan Pasir by-election in 2005. Abdullah said he had also been informed that Tengku Razaleigh did not assist BN in the March 8 general election.
He also said that he had no problems with his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak and that he would be his successor "when the time comes".
On efforts to restore the party, he said besides him and Najib going to the ground to meet the party grassroots, relations between the party branches and the top leadership would be strengthened by meeting regularly.