(Penang, Friday): Firstly,
I congratulate Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on his appointment as Acting
Prime Minister in the next 16 months whenever the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr.
Mahathir Mohamad is out of the country – which is likely to be more than half
of the transition period considering Mahathir’s pace of foreign trips, making
17 overseas trips in the first six months of this year – and his
designation as the successor to Mahathir as the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia
after the Organisation of Islamic
Conference (OIC) Summit in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 24 and 25, 2003.
also congratulate Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi
Awang on his appointment as Parlamentary Opposition Leader although this has yet
to be announced by the Parliament Speaker.
political events of the past week have ushered
Malaysia into a period of uncertainty, which will not be fully worked out before
the end of the 16-month transition period for the full transfer of the
powers and office of Prime Minister from Mahathir to Abdullah – or even until
Mahathir made his sudden and completely unexpected resignation announcement at
the close of the UMNO General
Assembly last Saturday, he plunged
UMNO into a public trauma unleashing emotional shockwaves which prevented
him from completing his announcement – while the Malaysian public
reacted in shock or disbelief.
questions have been raised, which remain largely unanswered, by the political
events of the past week.
whether Mahathir’s “resignation” announcement was a
sandiwara or play-acting, planned and orchestrated every step of the way,
in view of Mahathir’s reputation of being more Machiavellian than Machiavelli,
to stage a high
political drama to consolidate his power base in UMNO to silence
criticisms and dissenting voices to
his public expressions of disappointment at his failure to change the Malays and
his recent educational proposals in connection with “meritocracy”, the 10
per non-Malay quota for matriculation courses and MARA colleges and the use of
English in schools.
never subscribed to this conspiracy theory, believing that Mahathir’s
announcement was genuine for a variety of reasons,
although it was unfortunate that he
was unable to fully spell out his resignation intentions before he was cut off
and led off stage as a result of the public display of emotional holocaust at
the UMNO General Assembly.
second question is whether the 16-month transition plan will hold, whether Mahathir will make a political come-back
at the end of the period whether because of staged or genuine UMNO and public
demand – on the ground that Mahathir is indispensable or that Abdullah is not
ready or suitable for the No. 1 job.
one will write off this option as I do not see the possibility of such a
Mahathir come-back, least of all that Mahathir will want to be part of it.
believe that barring extraordinary developments, Abdullah is set to be the fifth
Prime Minister of Malaysia by October next year and I do not expect him being
challenged from inside UMNO for this No. 1 post.
jockeying for power in UMNO would
have started, however, for the new No. 2-to-be, and this
power tussle for the new No. 2 would have a bearing on the future of
Abdullah as to how successful and how long
he could be the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia.
biggest weakness is that he was never elected as the UMNO Deputy President by
the UMNO delegates in a free party election and he missed the chance to gain
full legitimacy as the
properly-elected UMNO Deputy President in the 54th UMNO General
Assembly in May 2000 after being a Deputy Prime Minister for 15 months, as the
UMNO Supreme Council took the undemocratic decision that the post of President
and Deputy President could not be contested.
undemocratic UMNO disease of stifling grass-roots party
democracy and the right of the delegates
to elect the leadership has now been exported to MCA, which has been
forbidden from holding party leadership elections not by the MCA Constitution
but by the UMNO President!
was not Mahathir’s understanding of democracy 21 years ago when he was set to
become the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia after Tun Hussein Onn announced his
resignation plan in mid-1981 because
of poor health following a coronary bypass operation in London earlier in the
that time, Mahathir said he fully respected the democratic tradition and rights
of UMNO delegates to elect the top UMNO leadership and that he would appoint as
Deputy Prime Minister the Deputy
UMNO President elected by the UMNO
General Assembly just before he took over the reins of government from Hussein
Onn on July 16, 1981.
set the stage for Round One of the titantic power struggle between Musa Hitam
and Tengku Razaleigh to be the UMNO
Deputy President, and although Razaleigh was the hot-favourite, Musa won by a
comfortable margin of 205 votes to become Mahathir’s first Deputy Prime
Minister to form the “2M” Government – laying the seeds for Musa-Razaleigh
battle Round Two in 1984 before
both of them joined forces to challenge Mahathir/Ghaffar Baba in Round 3 in
question today is not who will challenge Abdullah, but who will become the new
No. 2 in UMNO and government – whether Abdullah will follow Mahathir’s
footsteps in 1981 to let the UMNO delegates to decide on the top leadership or
he will inherit Mahathir’s latter-day undemocratic instincts forbidding party
democracy and impose his choice of
the new No. 2 on UMNO.
Hussein Onn became the third Prime Minister after Tun Razak died of leukaemia in
London in January 1976, he had
wanted to appoint the then powerful Home Minister and Razak-confidante Tan Sri
Ghazalie Shafie as Deputy Prime Minister, but he was not an UMNO Vice President,
and the three UMNO Vice Presidents, Ghafar Baba, Tengku Razaleigh and Mahathir
ganged up against Hussein Onn to demand that he should pick the Deputy Prime
Minister from one of the three UMNO Vice Presidents or face a revolt.
who was elected as UMNO Vice President in
the 1975 UMNO General Assembly with the smallest vote, was selected to become
Deputy Prime Minister – and the
rest is history.
Mahathir picked Abdullah as Deputy Prime Minister in January 1999, Abdullah was
not the UMNO Vice President with the highest number of votes in the 1996 UMNO
General Assembly (the last time there was elections for the UMNO Vice
Presidency), having secured only 1,053 votes as compared to 1,483 votes polled
by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and 1,045 votes by Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.
the party elections in the 54th UMNO General Assembly in May 2000,
the votes polled by the three elected UMNO Vice Presidents were: Najib 1,289
votes; Muhammad Taib 853 votes and Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin 813 votes.
is therefore not assured of being
appointed Deputy Prime Minister as
there is no UMNO tradition that the Vice President with the highest votes will
get the first shot to be appointed the Deputy Prime Minister if there are no
party elections to determine the new UMNO
alternative is to restore UMNO democracy by holding UMNO party elections to
return the right of UMNO delegates to choose their top leadership – especially
as there had been no party
elections for UMNO’s No. 1 and No. 2 posts
for the past 15 years since 1987.
results of the two Kedah by-elections
in Pendang parliamentary and Anak Bukit state constituencies following the death of PAS President, Datuk Fadhil
Noor will have a large bearing in
determining whether there will be a restoration of UMNO democracy with
UMNO delegates allowed once again to
choose who is to be the new No. 2 in party and government, as well as
whether the next general elections will be held within 12 or six months.
the first two days of the UMNO General Assembly, I was repeatedly asked by the
media for my response to speeches
by UMNO, UMNO Youth and Wanita UMNO leaders which indicated that a snap general
election is imminent.
invariably told them that the holding of a snap general election, in the sense
of not waiting for the completion of the full five-year term in 2004,
is no more news if it is held within 12 months, and that it would only be
news if it is held within six months.
is the view that the 16-month power transition plan means that general election
will be held after Abdullah becomes the fifth Prime Minister in October next
year. I am inclined to the opposite view – that the 16-month transition plan
would include the holding of the next general election whether in 12 months or
even six months, depending on the outcome of the Pendang and Anak Bukit
he became the new PAS leader, Hadi said Malaysians should judge him by his words
and actions and not from what had been written and said about him.
said he will continue to pursue the
moderate agenda of Fadzil Noor and that there will be no change in PAS’
outlook and “political orientation”.
wish to publicly call on Hadi to underscore his assurance that PAS under his
leadership will pursue a moderate agenda by withdrawing the controversial
Terengganu Syariah Criminal Enactment Bill as it is clearly against the Federal
Constitution, violates human rights and discriminates against women.
important of all, the Terengganu Syariah Criminal Enactment Bill violates the
Barisan Alternative common manifesto 1999 “Towards a Just Malaysia” , where
the signatory parties made the solemn pledge “to uphold and respect the
fundamental principles of the Malaysian Constitution”.
is set for uncertain and even tumultuous political waters, and it is in such a
period of political uncertainty that the DAP has an even greater role to play to
defend and preserve the fundamental principles of the 44-year Merdeka
Constitution, the “social contract” and the 1963 Malaysia Agreement that
Malaysia is a democratic, secular, multi-religious, tolerant and progressive
Malaysia with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State – as the
DAP is the only political party in
the country standing up unequivocally for these founding nation-building
principles agreed by our forefathers from the