Was Mahathir trying to bring back Tengku Razaleigh as Finance Minister  resulting in opposition from the three UMNO Vice Presidents?

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Monday) The Utusan Malaysia front-page report  today quoting the UMNO Information chief, Tan Sri Megat Junid Megat Ayub as saying that Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was still intent on resigning as UMNO President and Barisan Nasional Chairman during the meeting of the UMNO Management Committee with Mahathir at Sri Perdana yesterday morning before he left  for his sudden 10-day overseas leave, and that a “compromise” had been reached and that the UMNO Supreme Council will meet tomorrow to determine Mahathir’s position and that the UMNO Deputy President, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would make an important announcement after the meeting,  have  plunged the country into new political uncertainties. 

CNN had described Mahathir’s resignation as the shortest in world history. I had said yesterday that  Mahathir’s sudden resignation at the UMNO General Assembly on Saturday  would be generally regarded as a Machiavellian move to consolidate his political power inside and outside UMNO.  I did not think so and I could sympathise with Mahathir as political leaders sometimes act in response to the human dimension.  I know because I had wanted to resign as DAP Secretary-General and although Mahathir had joined others to label it as political “sandiwara”, Mahathir is learning the complexity of actions of political leaders.  This was why I said yesterday I did not think Mahathir’s announcement of his  resignation at the UMNO General Assembly on Saturday was a “political gimmick”.  

Mahathir was not allowed to finish his  sudden resignation announcement  – whether he was also resigning as Prime Minister.  This would be the logical conclusion having resigned as UMNO President and Barisan Nasional Chairman – unless he wanted to be allowed to continue as Prime Minister despite resigning as UMNO President and BN Chairman, which would be quite unthinkable.  

However, before leaving for his sudden 10-day leave in Europe, Mahathir should have explained to the Malaysian people whether he had intended to resign as Prime Minister and the reasons for his sudden resignation announcement. 

Since Mahathir had not done this, it has allowed rumours to run riot as to his actual intention and the reasons for his surprise resignation announcement.

The various theories about Mahathir’s resignation include:  

Sandiwara because of Mahathir’s sense of failure to change the Malays, the resistance to the proposed educational changes on “meritocracy”, the 10% non-bumiputra quota for matriculation and MARA colleges and the use of English.  

Sandiwara because of Mahathir’s disgust at the infighting and jockeying for power among the top UMNO echelons, particularly among the three UMNO Vice Presidents and the Deputy President.  

Genuine because Mahathir felt that UMNO had achieved a political turnaround and that he had been too long at the helm of national leadership – 21 years. 

The “sandiwara” theory is often coupled with the conclusion that the resignation “gimmick” enables Mahathir to create a situation where he would be vested with even more powers with the free hand  to do what he wants. 

As Mahathir did not explain his position after his sudden resignation announcement was interrupted midway, and the retraction was made not by Mahathir but by Abdullah, it has allowed rumours to run riot.  

There is the rumour that Mahathir had wanted to bring back Tengku Razaleigh as Finance Minister but this was strongly objected by the three UMNO Vice Presidents. 

Megat Junid’s statements in the Utusan Malaysia front-page story today have made the political situation murkier  and more turbulent.  

It raises the following questions:  

Did Abdullah really have Mahathir’s unequivocal consent to announce retraction of his resignations at the UMNO General Assembly an hour later?  If so, why did Megat Junid said Mahathir was still intent on his resignations the next morning? 

If Mahathir’s sudden resignation was genuine and  not a “political gimmick”, is the whole issue now being turned into a political gambit to exploit its political mileage, especially as there will be two by-elections in Kedah following the death of the PAS President, Datuk Fadhil Noor?  Will the country be told that Mahathir will only return as Prime Minister if the people show solid support, including landslide wins for UMNO in the two by-elections?


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman