TUN MAHATHIR MOHAMAD – Criticism of his successor

In 2006 Mahathir’s relationship with his successor started to get strained. In a press conference on 7 June 2006 at the Perdana Leadership Foundation, which he heads, Mahathir said that Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was not his first choice as successor but it was the current Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, instead. He said that he felt hurt by allegations that he “finished all the government’s money, and that the government was bankrupt” because of the mega-projects initiated by him during his tenure as prime minister. Mahathir added that he has “…a habit of choosing the wrong people” when he was answering the question whether Abdullah had stabbed him in the back. He has also criticised the present government’s decision to scrap the plan to replace Malaysia’s side of the Johor-Singapore Causeway. In his opinion, Malaysia does not need to seek the approval to build a bridge on its own soil. This and other such issues have led many to believe that UMNO is under the threat of splitting into Mahathir and Badawi factions. A statement was issued by UMNO to reassure the public that they wholeheartedly supported Badawi, although as of yet, no stand has been taken over the issue of Mahathir’s membership in the party. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Nazri Aziz, suggested that Mahathir “wants to force him (Abdullah) to quit. He needs to be told he is no longer Prime Minister. His campaign is not for the sake of the country but for himself.

To make his voice heard, Mahathir decided to bid to become a delegate from Kubang Pasu for the 2006 UMNO general assembly. This move, if successful, would bring great chagrin to Abdullah who seemed to use every form of cencorship available to shut Mahathir up. He failed in his bid to be elected as a representive which is suprising given the fact that Kubang Pasu is his stronghold for over three decades. Later, an angry Mahathir claimed that the “establishment” (in reference to the present government) were doing everything in their power including, but not limited to using government machine that is normally reserved for general alections, to ensure that he didn’t get elected. Mahathir even went as far as to allegealbeit, without proof – that the interested party paid RM200 for every vote cast against him. Mahathir also challenged the government to throw him in jail if the government wanted him to shut his mouth.

On, 22 October 2006, Mahathir had a private meeting with Abdullah, in which he voiced his dissatisfactions face-to-face for the first time with Abdullah. This meeting was highly anticipated by members of UMNO and other Malaysians to be an opportunity to narrow the differences between both of them.

However, Mahathir continued his criticisms of Abdullah after the meeting, saying that he was not satisfied with Abdullah’s answers to his views.[57]

In a press conference after the meeting, Mahathir revealed one of his dissatisfactions; he felt that his civil liberties to voice his opinions and meeting with people were curtailed by the government. This is a quote from the press conference on this topic.

  • “And I pointed out to him that firstly, this has become a police state. Because every time anybody invites me to give a talk, they would be called up by the police and warned, called up by the police and told to withdraw the invitation. Someone was not allowed to hold any meeting at all which involves me. This happened to many people. They were very shy to tell me about it but they were called up by the police and of course they were also called up by the Menteri Besar as well… But I consider this a police state. And I consider also that my civic right has been taken away from me because I have every right to talk to Umno people, university people, civil servants and that’s my right”.[57]

Mahathir also voiced certain conducts of Abdullah and his relatives (before and after Abdullah became Prime Minister) that would amount to corruption although Mahathir did not explicitly accuse Abdullah of that. Mahathir expressed his disappointment regarding Abdullah’s role in the oil-for-food programme with Iraq; Abdullah’s name was listed as a beneficiary in a report published by the US government regarding the programme. Abdullah’s son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, and his son had also been accused by Mahathir of offering contracts to their connections, which amounts to corruption.

Mahathir had also criticised Abdullah’s handling of the Approved Permits (AP) issue, expressing his surprise that Rafidah Aziz was still retained as a Cabinet member although two people on the list of persons issued with highest number of APs were linked to Rafidah.[57]

He continued his criticisms of Abdullah for being responsible for the ruling party’s disastrous performance in the recent general elections. Mahathir accused Abdullah of corruption, nepotism and weakness in his administration and said they were reasons voters snubbed the UMNO-led coalition.[58]


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