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SCMP: Stubborn Mahathir to Stay Put
By Ian Stewart
25/6/2001 11:38 pm Mon
[Perhimpunan agung Umno baru-baru ini menunjukkan Mahathir masih
enggan untuk bersara dan Dollah Badawi masih belum bersedia. Ini
menunjukkan Umno tiada pemimpin yang berkaliber kerana semua yang
hebat telah dicela dan sengaja dipinggirkan oleh Mahathir juga.
Ia juga bermakna hasrat untuk berhenti dulu cuma mainan kata sahaja.
Perhimpunan kali ini sedikit berbeda kerana begitu banyak tuduhan
yang tidak enak di dengar telinga terhadap anak bangsa menyelubungi
suasana. Mahathir mempersalahkan semua orang termasuk ahli Umno
padahal tidak banyak ahli Umno yang memboikot arahannya. Dia lupa
agaknya Umno sebenarnya dipenuhi oleh golongan oportunis belaka.
Mereka akan bersandar kepada yang kuat sahaja dan merasa terhina
kerana presiden tidak menghargai pandangan dan penat-lelah mereka.
Apa gunanya mereka memilih kalau pilihan presiden mengatasi
Apa yang menarik perkataan 'lupa' dan 'haprak' serta pelbagai celaan
diulang-ulang bagai rekod yang sudah sumbang dan tersekat kerana sudah
terlalu usang. Beberapa pewakilan pemuda menganggap itu amat tidak adil
dan golongan vetren berpendapat undi parti akan merosot lagi kerana
menghentam orang melayu. Mahathir telah mempamirkan satu kebiadapan
sedangkan orang melayu sekarang sudah cukup pintar untuk menilai keadaan.
Jika ahli Umno sendiri keresahan inikan pula rakyat yang kebanyakkan.
Stubborn Mahathir to stay put
Despite grumblings, PM seems to have changed his mind about leaving
IAN STEWART in Kuala Lumpur
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad last week chalked up 20 years as
leader but let it be known he is unlikely to step down soon, despite
acknowledging that "lots of people" do not like him.
He made a lot more people unhappy with his speech and remarks at the
opening of the annual general assembly of the United Malays National
Organisation (Umno), the dominant government party, in his role as
First of all, when asked about his retirement plans, he said it was a
difficult question to answer. While some people would like to see him
"disappear or disintegrate", others insisted he should stay on. He had
to "find the right time to step down".
About 18 months ago he said this term, ending in 2004, would be his
Second, Dr Mahathir returned to an old refrain that many delegates did
not want to hear. For more than 30 years he has been telling the majority Malays that
they have "weaknesses" that can only be overcome with hard work.
For more than 30 years he has been telling the majority Malays that they have "weaknesses" that can only be overcome with hard work.
In his general assembly address, he portrayed Malays as "still weak in
all areas". They were unwilling to acquire knowledge and unwilling to
work hard, they were "not smart, easily bribed", they became drug
addicts and suffered from Aids. "We topple, steal and we will do
anything to achieve our great dreams," he said.
Dr Mahathir's reiteration of the disheartening message provoked
grumbling among many delegates.
Younger representatives who have grown up knowing only one leader and
feel it is time for a change were especially caustic in their
Some delegates said it was like listening to a stuck record. Umno
Youth members complained that the president was lecturing them
unfairly. An Umno veteran worried that Dr Mahathir's hard-hitting
criticism of Malays would lose the party votes.
But Dr Mahathir was undaunted by the possibility of a voter backlash,
despite indications of a continuing erosion of support for Umno
following its loss of 22 parliamentary seats to the opposition in the
1999 general election.
Asked whether his harsh words might be counter-productive politically,
he said some people would "feel unhappy about it" because they did not
like to be told the truth.
"But I suspect a lot of people will heed the warning," he said. "They
have been told that they are not doing the right thing and they must
do the right thing." He said that as a leader he had to lead.
Dr Mahathir said it was too bad if some people did not like it and the
party lost votes.
But he does not want the party to lose votes. He warned that if the
opposition gained a further 21 seats, which was "no longer that
difficult", Umno would be outnumbered 53 to 51, with non-Malay parties
holding the balance of power.
A Malaysian political analyst said the party president was taking
advantage of the fact the next election was three years away and it
was relatively safe for him to try again to needle Malays into being
more achievement-oriented and less dependent on the special privileges
accorded their race.
He also knew he was under no threat from any single leader or faction
within the party.
The political analyst, who has close links with Umno, said no one in
the top leadership had reacted negatively to his "clear indication
that he is going to stay on". "It was expected," he said.
The analyst said several senior leaders felt the Deputy Prime
Minister, Abdullah Badawi, who is in like to succeed Dr Mahathir, was
not yet ready to take over.
"They think Badawi needs a little more time," he said.
The only obstacle to Dr Mahathir continuing to head the Government
for the foreseeable future would seem to be the failing of his health.
He will be 76 in December and underwent a multiple coronary bypass in
But he looks fit and well and stood for nearly two hours delivering
his speech at the general assembly without any signs of fatigue or
He has taken on the extra task of running the Finance Ministry,
following the resignation of Daim Zainuddin, but is expected to
appoint a second finance minister to reduce his workload.
But the support of Dr Mahathir's Umno colleagues may fray if the
opposition can capitalise on any backlash against his tongue-lashing
of Malays. Dr Mahathir has outlasted three deputy prime ministers (and deputy
Umno presidents), who expected to succeed him. The fourth, Mr Badawi,
is still waiting in the wings.
Dr Mahathir has outlasted three deputy prime ministers (and deputy Umno presidents), who expected to succeed him. The fourth, Mr Badawi, is still waiting in the wings.
In these circumstances, it is quite possible Dr Mahathir will still be
Malaysia's leader when he reaches his 80th birthday in 2005.