Oct 20, 2008

Rais lashes out at Tun Mahathir critics

Jelebu Umno division chief Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim lashed out at those who criticised former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for making statements regarding Umno.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 (Bernama) -- Jelebu Umno division chief Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim today lashed out at those who criticise former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for making statements regarding Umno.

"There are many who are blasting Tun Dr Mahathir for making statements about Umno. This should not be an issue," said Rais, who is Foreign Minister.

"He has the locus standi (standing) to make any statement on Umno. He led the party for 23 years."

"If they want to say something to him, look at him straight in the eye and tell him. Dr Mahathir has every right to say what he wants about Umno," he told reporters when met at the Foreign Ministry's friends of Malaysia cultural exchange programme here.

Over the last month there had been calls by certain Umno leaders, including Umno president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, blaming Dr Mahathir for a divided Umno.

The former prime minister earlier this year quit the party, which he once led, saying that he would only return once Abdullah vacates the party and government posts.

On another note, Rais alleged that there is a rapid rise in the menace of money politics in Umno and if left unchecked, the scourge would spell the death of the largest political party in the country.

The Anti-Corruption Commission Act, which had been proposed and is to be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat by year end, would be able to cover this practice, which had hogged Umno everytime it held its elections, he said.

Umno, the backbone of the ruling Barisan Nasional, will hold its elections in March next year. Under the party system, all 191 divisions will nominate leaders to contest for the top national positions, from the president, deputy president, three vice-presidents down to the 25 supreme council members. Rais had announced his wish to contest the vice-presidency and to date has only obtained six nominations.

A vice-presidential candidate needs at least 20 nominations to contest. The divisional meet ings are currently underway and will end on Nov 9.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein is leading the veep race with 54 nominations, followed by Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (38) and Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal (32). They are just the top three of 12 Umno leaders who have received nominations for the three-seat vice-presidential race.

Rais said that he noticed that some leaders had obtained nominations "out of the norm" but did not specify the leader or the post. "Even I have been approached by some divisions wanting donations and contributions. If I had given them these so-called donations or contributions, then I would have received their nominations but I will not yield to such requests. Nominations should be based on service and capability," said Rais, who is one of the more senior leaders in Umno.


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