Sep 25, 2008

New Mahathir broadside could boost Razaleigh

SEPT 25 - In a move that could help Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah bid for Malaysian leadership, former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has launched one of his strongest attacks yet against the leadership of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno).

Expressing amazement at recent developments in Umno's Supreme Council, Dr Mahathir deplored "private deals" between Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and his deputy Najib Razak as "unsatisfactory".

"By the time Abdullah meets Najib, he would have been briefed by his family on what to say," Dr Mahathir wrote in his Internet blog yesterday.
"And Najib, being Najib, would then accept Abdullah's solution to the problem. Najib would have the task of selling the solution to the Supreme Council. By doing so, Najib would go down further in the estimation of council members and the public when Najib's behaviour is leaked."

Dr Mahathir predicted that Najib would not get his wish for a peaceful transition. "There has never been a president of Umno who is as much disliked and even hated by the people as Abdullah," said the former premier. "Malays, Chinese, Indians . . . the ordinary people all want Abdullah to go - the sooner the better."

Dr Mahathir's outburst is the latest in a long line of ferocious attacks going back two years. It comes at a critical point for the embattled Abdullah, who could face a party revolt amid calls for him to go much earlier than his previously announced June 2010 handover to Najib.

Dr Mahathir's tart comments could also bolster former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh's chances in his seemingly quixotic quest to obtain enough nominations to challenge Abdullah for Umno's presidency and, with it, the prime ministership.

The 72-year-old Kelantan prince faces an uphill battle getting the 58 nominations he needs to challenge Abdullah, largely because he has been out of government for 21 years and a whole generation of Umno members do not know or care about his contributions to the nation.

But if Najib, 55, maintains support for Mr Abdullah and refuses to challenge him, Tengku Razaleigh could get support from frustrated Umno divisions desperate for a change at the top and a firm hand on the rudder.

As if sensing the country's dark mood, Tengku Razaleigh issued an epistle-like statement to all Malaysians on Monday, urging them "to come together in this dangerous situation" because Umno and the government "are no longer viable".

He said the government now commands much less support than it did after the March 8 general election, but rather than share the public's urgency for change, the present office- holders had "redoubled efforts to frustrate renewal, cut off reform, and silence criticism".

Tengku Razaleigh blasted Abdullah's transition plan as a "fantasy which rides roughshod over the party's constitution and the rights of its members".
In many ways, the prince's statement echoes Dr Mahathir's sentiments. "This brazen attempt to treat public office and party trust as a private bequest between two individuals - one of whom wishes to hold office beyond his democratic mandate, the other to ascend without one - and the continuing effort to force-feed the country with this notion, fools no one," said the prince. And there is no mistaking the individuals he was referring to. - Business Times Singapore


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