(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said in Hanoi yesterday that he was still considering whether to appoint a Deputy Prime Minister before next year’s UMNO elections.
He said initially he wanted UMNO members to decide who the next Deputy Prime Minister should be by electing a deputy president at the party elections. But certain people including senior members of the party have expressed the view that it was too long a wait.
Whether and for how long UMNO keeps the post the UMNO Deputy President vacant is an internal UMNO matter, but the position of the vacant post of Deputy Prime Minister is a matter of public interest as it concerns the government, people and nation.
Ever since the fallout between Mahathir and his first Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Musa Hitam in 1985, Mahathir had been very wary of who would be his successor, and this was why his second Deputy Prime Minister, Tun Ghafar Baba was never appointed Acting Prime Minister in his eight years as his No. 2.
It was only last year that for the first time in 12 years, he allowed his Deputy Prime Minister to become Acting Prime Minister - and this clearly sowed the seeds for the final rupture and sacking of his third Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim a year later both from government and UMNO.
UMNO can keep its post of Deputy President vacant until the next UMNO elections but it is unhealthy and undesirable to keep the post of Deputy Prime Minister empty for close to a year.
As Mahathir had introduced the system of rotation for the post of the Sabah Chief Minister, he should consider appointing the Deputy Prime Minister by rotation until the emergence of a clear successor - may be with a two-month tour of office for each appointee.