Former Umno president Dr Mahathir Mohamad today announced that he was quitting Umno with immediate effect and urged other members to emulate him. Tun Mahathir said he was quitting the party, which he led for almost 22 years until handing over the reins to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2003, as a sign of no confidence in his successor's leadership.
ALOR STAR: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced Monday at 12.35pm that he is quitting Umno.
He said this during a talk here on Monday.
He has been critical of his appointed successor Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, blaming the current Umno president for the party's disappointing performance in the 12th general election.
The ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, of which Umno is the largest component party, won the March 8 election with a simple majority, and saw four more states join Kelantan under Opposition rule.
Dr Mahathir urged other party members to quit too, as a way of pressuring Abdullah into vacating his post.
However, he advised those who do quit not to join any opposition party.
Abdullah has so far refused all calls for him to step down, and said he would defend his presidency in the party polls in December.
Dr Mahathir joined Umno at its inception in 1946.
He became a Member of Parliament in 1964 when he won the Kota Setar Selatan seat.
He lost the seat in the following general election in 1969.
Following the May 13, 1969, riots Dr Mahathir was sacked from the Umno Supreme Council on July 12 because of the widespread distribution of his letter to first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman criticising Tunku’s manner of handling the country’s administration.
Dr Mahathir rejoined Umno on March 7, 1972 and was appointed Senator in 1973. He relinquished the senatorship post a year later to contest the Kubang Pasu seat in the general elections. He was returned unopposed and was appointed Minister of Education.
In 1975, Dr Mahathir became one of the three vice-presidents of Umno.
Tun Hussein Onn appointed Dr Mahathir Deputy Prime Minister on Sept 15, 1978.
Dr Mahathir was Prime Minister of Malaysia from July 16, 1981, until Oct 31, 2003.
Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib said he was surprised at the decision, but added that it was Dr Mahathir's right to do so.
"Every member has the right to join or leave the party," he said.
Asked if Umno would convene an emergency meeting, the former Umno vice-president and Selangor Mentri Besar said that "we will wait and see."
The next Umno Supreme Council meeting is scheduled to be held within the next two or three weeks.