Mahathir: Umno has lost its way

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KUALA LUMPUR: Former Umno President and Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has taken to his blog, on the eve of the Umno Supreme Council meeting on Tuesday, to walk down memory lane and lament over what has become of the party that he once led through thick and thin including repeated attempts to unseat him. He wanted to point out that he faced all challenges without resorting to underhanded tactics or hitting below the belt.

Mahathir said that Umno was currently in a predicament, indeed a dilemma of sorts, where it was longer about ‘berani kerana benar’ (brave because of the truth). “The leadership lives in fear and has created a climate of fear because of the 1MDB scandal and the RM2.6 billion political “donation” controversy.”

“All kinds of undemocratic methods are being employed to prevent the truth from surfacing or being raised.”

The former party president alleged that there are those who are being accused of not having paid income taxes on their revenue from contracts, others investigated by the police, some are in the lock-up with no regard for the law, and there are still yet others being threatened that they would lose their contracts (if they are critical).

The government, added Mahathir, was sabotaging democracy in the country. However, it’s warning critics that if they sabotage democracy in the country, they will be locked up for anything up to 15 years. “It seems that this is a democratic country, so any attempts at sabotaging democracy will not be allowed.”

Criticizing the government, he warned, has become criminal although there’s no such law. “It’s an ‘unwritten’ law.”

Mahathir stressed that he wasn’t standing in any party elections but efforts are being made by the parties concerned to silence him, to prevent him from meeting Umno members, especially the grassroots. “Those who own venues which can be rented for meetings are afraid to allow any gatherings which would end up criticizing the government. They have been intimidated by the government into submission.”

Mahathir was commenting on the party declaring the twin mega scandals as taboo subjects, not to be brought up by the members during the forthcoming annual general assembly. “What kind of meeting would Umno be holding?”

By right, he said, Muhyiddin Yassin as Deputy President should officiate at the opening of the respective Wanita Umno, Youth and Puteri annual general assemblies. “However, the warnings have gone out that the twin mega scandals should be off the agenda.”

The former Prime Minister pointed out that Umno was not holding party elections this year, Najib having already postponed it to after the next General Election, the 14th, in 2018. “So, what’s there to be afraid of? Why can’t the 1MDB and RM2.6b controversies be raised during the party’s general assembly when except for the President’s speech, the rest of the debates won’t be broadcast or telecast?”

Delving into his time as party president, Mahathir reiterated that there were attempts, many times, to unseat him, but because of sheer faith and confidence, he persevered and presided over the party until he stepped down in 2003. “Razaleigh’s supporters campaigned throughout the country. They were free to meet with Umno members at all levels including the grassroots. They had their side of the story to tell. No one could block or stop them, remembered Mahathir.”

“What Razaleigh was doing was democratic.”

It was high noon, a dramatic moment in life, said the former Umno President, when he came in with a 43 vote margin in 1987 over Tengku Razaleigh who challenged him for the party presidency and called for numerous re-counts over an eight-hour period. “The rest is history and I don’t have to get into the nitty gritty details.”

Mahathir reminded his readers that Razaleigh’s position as Umno Treasurer and Finance Minister was not affected by the latter’s decision to go for the number one party post and losing in the process. “Likewise, all the Ministers aligned to Razaleigh in 1987 retained their positions in government.”