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The second round of Mahathir-Abdullah political tussle is probably the most important and decisive one which will determine the duration of the Abdullah premiership regardless of whether the battle goes the “full 15 rounds” or otherwise


Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang  

, Saturday) Former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s  return from his 22-day  overseas trip marked the second round of the Mahathir-Abdullah political tussle, with him opening up on his arrival at the Subang military airport  on three fronts:


  • That he was barred from speaking to UMNO Clubs in England and that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was not as open to criticism as when he (Mahathir) was Prime Minister – citing the case of Bapa Malaysia and first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, who “wrote to the Star, he wrote books, he wrote all sort of things, he supported those who wanted to dethrone me, but I didn’t do anything to him”.


  • That the government had not satisfactorily replied to his allegations over the cancellation of the RM1.1 billion crooked half-bridge, particularly over  the sale of sand to Singapore as none of the declassified documents, which contained four correspondences between him and top Singapore officials, released last week divulged new details. As Mahathir said, “they bring out old letters that Singapore had long published”.


  • That he had “picked a foreign minister (Datuk Syed Hamid Albar)  who does not know how to read letters”.


Mahathir has selective memory, as he did not mention the dark years of oppression under his premiership, in particular the  1987 Operation Lalang clampdown of mass arrests of Opposition MPs and leaders, civil society activists as well as closure of newspapers, resulting in the “silencing” of Tunku Abdul Rahman in the mainstream media.


However, Mahathir’s complaint that the Abdullah government had failed so far to answer satisfactorily the various issues he had raised is valid, although it is not only Abdullah who must give full and satisfactory accountability for his 33 months of premiership, Mahathir cannot escape responsibility and accountability  for his 22-year premiership with  satisfactory answers to the long catalogue of questions which had been posed to him on the grave destruction he had wrought to key  national institutions, whether independent Parliament, Judiciary, Cabinet, Police, Election Commission, Anti-Corruption Agency,  Civil Service or Media as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia.


The second round of Mahathir-Abdullah political tussle is probably the most important and decisive one which will determine the duration of the Abdullah premiership regardless of whether the battle goes the “full 15 rounds” or otherwise.


This is because at issue is the battle for the hearts and minds of UMNO,  which will decide the tenure  and duration of Abdullah’s leadership of UMNO and therefore the premiership.  I understand that Mahathir has been invited to officiate at several UMNO divisional general meetings next month.


Abdullah won the biggest electoral mandate ever achieved by any Prime Minister  in Barisan Nasional history when he secured  92 per cent of the parliamentary seats in the 2004 general election on his promise of government reform and war against corruption.


Unfortunately, Abdullah had not been able to make use of this unprecedented popular mandate to deliver his electoral pledge of a clean, efficient and people-oriented government.


This was why in the September 2004 UMNO party elections, Abdullah suffered major setbacks when UMNO candidates he favoured were trounced while  UMNO leaders he would like to see retired triumphed with the highest number of votes.


If in this second Mahathir-Abdullah round of political tussle, Abdullah failed to realize the grave challenge posed to his premiership and allow  the impression to gain ground and take root that Abdullah is unable to give satisfactory response to the Mahathir challenge, his fragile  hold on UMNO loyalties will be broken as UMNO stalwarts throughout the country and  at all levels of leadership started to hedge  bets so as not to back  the “wrong horse” and be caught on the wrong footing  in the final UMNO leadership showdown which appears to be unavoidable.


The most effective way for Abdullah to counter the Mahathir challenge is to stay true to his election promises  and deliver his 2004 election pledge to reform the government and to fight corruption. He had however dilly-dallied for 33 months with very little to show.  The window of opportunity for Abdullah to deliver his election pledge is closing quick and fast, which in the long run, will undermine his ability to defend and preserve his premiership and fight off the Mahathir challenge, with far-reaching consequences not only on how long the fifth Prime Minister will hold office but also his legacy.



*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman

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