(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The statement by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in London on Sunday when replying to a Malaysian student after his speech at Malaysia Hall means that he will be leading Barisan Nasional into the next general election and he is not fully confident that Abdullah Badawi could be his successor.
Mahathir said that although he had thought about stepping down sometime last year, he would stay on until the right successor is found "no matter what people are saying".
Berrname reported the Prime Minister as saying:
"I have a responsibility now to ensure that Malaysia gets the right kind of leadership. I will not allow any snide remarks to deflect me from my duty.
"I have been the prime minister far longer than many people. I was looking foward to resigning last year. I am tired of this thing.
"But I have a responsiblity to ensure that the country is not led by someone who tells lies and who pretends to be pious while he is not."
"So even if I am cursed or even if I am told I should go away, I will still stay because I have a duty to the country.
"What people call me is irrelevant. I have got everything that I want. If I am given the choice, I would rather resign and spend my time Ďbuat ibadatí (fulfilling religious obligations) and write.
"But now, I will not resign. I will stay here unless somebody shoots me or tries to assassinate me like some people are thinking. It doesn't matter.
"My responsibility is to ensure that Malaysia gets the right kind of leadership."
A Malaysian student had asked the Prime Minister to resign because he had mishandled the case involving the former Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Mahathirís answer was sharp and strong, showing his annoyance, causing him to accuse certain students for "biting the hand that feeds them".
The Financial Times in the United Kingdom yesterday reported that the student won applause for suggesting that Mahathir should apologise to Anwar and his family and resign.
The British newspaper reported:
"Though he subsequently denied he had intended to intimidate his questioner, Dr Mahathir pointedly told him he had laid himself open to a defamation suit by the way his question was framed.
"However, the prime minister showed little restraint in his denunciation of Mr Anwar at the meeting, which was relayed to hundreds of students on closed circuit television throughout the offices of the Malaysian Students Department.
"Claiming he could speak freely because it was a private meeting despite the large audience, Dr Mahathir alluded to medical evidence relating to sodomy charges in the current trial."
Mahathirís outburst in London is significant for four reasons: