Mahathir should follow the example of Tengku Abdul Rahman and step down temporarily as Prime Minister to campaign for Barisan Nasional in the run-up to next election so as not to be guilty of conflict of interest and abuse of powers

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Although the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in Zimbabwe has again hinted he may wait till next year before calling a general election,  the possibility of his dissolving Parliament before it reconvenes on Oct. 18 cannot be ruled out.

Although the conventional wisdom is that general elections would be called after the presentation of the 2,000 Budget in Parliament on Oct. 29, I tend to discount it.

I believe that once Parliament reconvenes on Oct. 18, then we are looking at the likelihood of general election next year.

Although there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent Parliament from being dissolved in mid-session after the presentation of the 2,000 Budget on Oct. 29, and before its passage, such an action would be the worst  example of the Barisan Nasional political hegemony and Mahathirís contempt for Parliament, as well as subjecting Mahathir and his 18-year premiership to public ridicule and scorn.
This is because dissolution of Parliament during the midst of a Parliamentary meeting only takes place when there is a constitutional crisis, as in the sudden loss of a wafer-thin majority for the government or the ruling party being voted out of office as losing a no-confidence motion.

This is not the case here, as Mahathir has a rock-solid five-sixth parliamentary majority and the Barisan Nasional is in no danger of losing its overhwhelming and suffocating predominance in Parliament -  at least  not until the next general election.

To dissolve the Malaysian Parliament in mid-session will expose Mahathir to public ridicule and scorn that  he had become so politically desperate that he is  prepared to  trifle with Parliament  and waste public funds in a futile exercise  by  summoning 192 MPs to meet for two or three weeks, as  the parliamentary business transacted in the two or three weeks before dissolution would all lapse, having all to be re-debated and re-adopted in the new Parliament.

Of course, if Mahathir has  no confidence whatsoever of retaining parliamentary two-thirds majority for the Barisan Nasional in the next election, and is mortally afraid of the  new electoral list  which would come into effect next January, bringing into play the  650,000 new young voters who would begin to exercise their vote in January, he  might be desperate enough to  forget about his sense of pride, dignity and honour and  dissolve Parliament in mid-session after the 2000 Budget had been presented on Oct. 29.

In the past several months, the Prime Minister had been touring the various states openly campaigning for the Barisan Nasional in the run-up to the next general election.

Mahathir should realise that it is none of the business of the Prime Minister of Malaysia to campaign for votes for the Barisan Nasional, and there must be a clear distinction between his two positions, one as Prime Minister  of the country and the other as head of UMNO and Barisan Nasional.

Malaysian taxpayers pay Mahathir to carry out his duties as Prime Minister and not as President of UMNO and Chairman of Barisan Nasional. Thus, when the Prime Minister goes round the country using public funds and resources to drum up support for Barisan Nasional, it is an abuse of power,  misappropriation of public funds and clear conflict of interest.

If  Mahathir is so concerned that the Barisan Nasional might lose   its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time in history, and he has to spearhead the Barisan Nasional campaign to consolidate voter support for the next election, he should step down temporarily as Prime Minister to fully focus on his party political duties and let Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi act as Prime Minister until the outcome of the next election.

This was what Bapa Malaysia, Tengku Abdul Rahman did in April 1959, when he felt that he had to go round the country to consolidate national support for  Alliance, which  was faced with formidable challenge from the Opposition. Tengku stepped down temporarily as Prime Minister between April to August 1959  so that he would not be accused of abusing his powers and position as Prime Minister when he led the  campaign for public support for Alliance, resuming the Prime Ministerís post after the Alliance won the 1959 general election.  Tun Razak acted as the Prime Minister during those four months.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong