Friday, June 16, 2006


James Wong Wing On
Member of the 8th Parliament, former senior and award-winning
journalist, writer, author & strategic analyst

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MALASIAKINI in its Jun 14 report said PAS vice-president Husam Musa claimed to have received “information” hat Umno is planning to sack its former president Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Speaking at a press conference in Kota Bahru, Kelantan, he claimed that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in his capacity as Umno president, will propose a motion to expel Mahathir at the supreme council meeting on Monday.

Contacted later, Husam said if the information is accurate, it will prove that the Umno leadership and the government are not tolerant of criticisms and reprimands.

"I am exposing this information because I do not want Mahathir to be sacked. Imagine if a person like Mahathir can face such action, what more ordinary citizens?" he added.

Husam said he is concerned about the developments in Umno because he does not want to see the 'I'm brave because I'm right' culture displayed by Mahathir 'killed' by the government.

Mahathir was once sacked by the party after he severely criticised then prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman in the wake of the 1969 racial riots.

Ties have soured between Mahathir and his handpicked successor over the recent weeks after the former unleashed a wave of criticism against the current administration.

While maintaining that it is nothing personal, the former premier had suggested that he could have made the wrong choice in choosing Abdullah to replace him.

Mahathir's discontent with the current administration hit the peak after it decided to scrap the half-bridge project initiated by him.

Meanwhile, Umno information chief Muhammad Muhammad Taib confirmed that the party supreme council meeting will be held on Monday.However, he claimed to be in the dark of the agenda for the meeting. His reply to Hussams claim was:

"I don't know anything about it. It seems that PAS people are wiser than God,"

The following is
James Wong Wing On's Analysis of this speculation Jun 15, 06 4:53pm

According to PAS vice-president Husam Musa, he has received information that Prime Minister and Umno president Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is planning to sack his predecessor Dr Mahathir Mohamad next week from the party for his public criticisms against him.

Although there is no solid proof that the information Husam Musa claimed to have received is genuine or independently verified, the popular memory of Mahathir being sacked from Umno in the wake of the May 13 racial riot in 1969 for publicly attacking the then Umno president Tunku Abdul Rahman remains powerful, rendering Husam's claim to be not implausible.

Moreover, the statements made by Deputy Premier and Umno deputy president Najib Tun Razak yesterday (as reported by New Straits Times) today seem to indicate that there are indeed grave concerns about the negative impacts of Mahathir's recent criticisms on party discipline and coherence of the larger Barisan Nasional coalition.

Headlined 'Najib: Dissenters subject to party discipline', the Page 2 report clearly shows that there are heated debate within the party between those who argue for the Mahathir's right to "free speech", "transparency" and "openness" on one hand and those who are worried that Mahathir's recent spate of criticisms against Abdullah and some controversial decisions made by the government of the day could lead to widespread "indiscipline" within Umno, other component parties of the ruling BN and even the society at large.

From the report, it also seems that Najib, widely seen to be the ultimate beneficiary of the Mahathir-Abdullah rift, is now leaning towards Mahathir's supporters who champion "free speech", although he has earlier given public support to Abdullah.

Najib had reportedly said that as a citizen and former leader, Mahathir has valid grounds to express his views and that nobody should try to prevent him from saying what he feels. However, he was also quoted as saying that party members "must remember that they are governed by party discipline as well".

If others also criticise...

So, is Mahathir guilty of breaching "party discipline" by speaking out to local and foreign media against the serving party president and some of his decisions made by the Abdullah administration?

What if other lesser figures in Umno, such as branch leaders, mount public attacks on Najib and demand explanation also in the name of "free speech" or "transparency" or "national interest" like Mahathir?

Why was Mahathir sacked in 1969 for attacking the then prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman but is now made immune to disciplinary action for doing essentially the same thing to another prime minister, namely Abdullah Ahmad Badawi?

What if an "undisciplined" Mahathir, whatever his motives, feels emboldened by his immunity to further pose more and tougher questions to Abdullah or the government in the name of public interest?

The point here is how to differentiate between Mahathir and the lesser personalities (like the same Mahathir who had yet to become prime minister in 1969) who do likewise, or what exactly constitutes "party discipline"?

Like it or not, these two inter-related questions are going to be raised again and again, especially by the hardcore supporters of Abdullah who argue for disciplinary action to be taken by the party against Mahathir to stem any 'demonstration' or 'copycat' effect.

The concern for "party discipline", moreover, is not confined to the powers-that-be in Umno. More likely than not, top and established leaders of other component parties in BN, such as MCA or MIC, also secretly fear the 'demonstration' or 'copycat' effect spilling over to their organisations.

What if former MCA presidents and ministers like Lee San Choon or Dr Neo Yee Pan or Tan Koon Swan decide to emulate Mahathir and start to mount public criticisms against Ong Ka Teng or Chan Kong Choy? Should MCA then follow the example or precedent set by Umno of providing immunity to former top party leaders and ministers on matters pertaining to "party discipline"?

Mahathir's strength

More importantly, even if there is a complete consensus on the part of Abdullah and Najib to take disciplinary action against Mahathir, can they afford to do so politically without, first and foremost, contradicting the earlier assurance given by Abdullah that Mahathir enjoys the freedom of speech, which could then be popularly seen as cakap tak serupa bikin.

Then, there is also the consideration of how strong Mahathir's support actually is inside the party and out there in the society at large?

Although it is still to be the interests of both Mahathir and his opponents to portray the man or himself (Mahathir) as a "lonely old man", circumstantial evidences seem to suggest that it may not be the true picture at all.

If Mahathir is a "lonely old man" fighting "desperately" only to preserve his own legacies, then why is there a need for ministers and top powerholders, past and present, to be drafted to defend Abdullah and to counter-attack Mahathir?

If there is no crowd behind Mahathir, why did Abdullah abandon the strategy of "elegant silence" and concede to the ex-PM's public demand for his questions to be answered? Why not leave the "lonely old man" alone?

Why did Abdullah or his supporters feel the need to hold meetings for loyalty pledging and report the meetings publicly?

In view of these circumstantial evidences, the sacking of Mahathir would, more likely than not, cause another major split in Umno.

Above all, Mahathir's own personal history of political involvement also suggests that he has always been an institution himself for he could still make political impacts, for good or ill, without being a party member or even a member of Parliament.

Before his first election as an Umno MP in 1964, he had already been quite well-known politically for his nationalist-cum-leftist opposition to the Tunku's pro-West and right-wing foreign and defence policies.

After he lost the elections in 1969 and got sacked from the party for attacking the Tunku on socio-economic policies, he continued to make impact as an anti-Tunku critics on a variety of platforms, including PAS' rallies and the book The Malay Dilemma published in Singapore (but banned in Malaysia before it was lifted after he came into power in 1981).

Of course, there is still one critical difference between then and now: in 1969, he was only 44 years of age but now he is already 81. To sack or not to sack Mahathir is, therefore, not a simple question.



L A T E S T UPDATE: from MSIAkini:
Dr M's sacking: Pak Lah keeps us guessing, Beh Lih Yi Jun 16, 06 4:34pm

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today fueled speculations that Umno would sack its past president Dr Mahathir Mohamad when he refrained from denying it outright.

When asked by malaysiakini if action would be taken against his former boss, the prime minister - who was attending a Barisan Nasional (BN) supreme council meet in Kuala Lumpur - attempted to dodge the question. Abdullah, who is also Umno president, argued that it was not the right place to comment on party matters.

"This is not an Umno meeting so I have nothing to say about Umno," he said.
And when prodded, he replied: "I don't make any statements before Umno meets."
While Abdullah declined to elaborate on his remarks, observers wondered if his reluctance to deny the issue indicated that something was indeed brewing in Umno.
However, certain quarters believed that the speculation of an expulsion was far-fetched.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

By right he should be sacked. He has done great harm to the party. He has shown disrespect to our beloved PM.

9:56 AM  

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