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  #1  
Old 09-06-2006, 01:39 AM
kanden kanden is offline
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Default Dr M slams Pak Lah

Dr M hits out again: There won’t be a confrontation

08 Jun 2006
Brendan Pereira



PUTRAJAYA: He has been unhappy for some time now. A whisper here. A barbed comment there. And sharp remarks sprinkled here and there.


But yesterday, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dropped all pretence and laid bare his anger towards his successor, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

All decorum was tossed aside as he accused Abdullah of betraying his trust by reversing many of his decisions, going so far as to imply that he had picked the wrong person to lead Malaysia.

"It is, unfortunately, a common trait for me," Dr Mahathir told reporters he had invited to the Perdana Leadership Institute.

"I make a habit of choosing the wrong people perhaps... I chose him and I expected a certain degree of gratitude."

The Government has not publicly accused Mahathir of excessive spending, and ministers and other politicians reacted with surprise to the personal nature of yesterday’s attack.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is on a working visit to India, said that Abdullah should not be burdened with this attack as all decisions in the Cabinet were made collectively.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman was moved to declare that the State Government and Sabah Umno were fully in support of Abdullah. This decision was reached after the state Umno liaison met yesterday.

Most had held their tongues until now, because Abdullah had repeatedly reminded Cabinet ministers and other politicians to remember Dr Mahathir’s great service to the country.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said yesterday that Abdullah has not said anything negative about his predecessor. "Not once have I heard him do so," he said.

Reporters rushed to the World Islamic Economic forum last night hoping for some choice soundbites from Abdullah. He disappointed them and Dr Mahathir — it is not in his nature to get personal.

When Abdullah does speak in the days ahead, his words will not likely be steeped in venom. He knows some people on the sidelines want a confrontation, but he also knows that is not what 25 million Malaysians want or need right now.

Too many years in the past three decades have been spent in fighting mode, turning friends into foes and distracting the country from its goal of becoming a developed country by 2020.

Too many years have been wasted trying to paper over fissures in the ruling party.

Abdullah is not willing to go down that path again. Whatever the provocation. That is why even after being told that he headed a "half-past-six" administration, and after being chided in public for not going ahead with the bridge to replace the Causeway, Abdullah was happy to meet Dr Mahathir in Tokyo recently.

There was no shortage of provocative remarks in Dr Mahathir’s interview. Here is a snapshot of what he said:

* Dr Mahathir complained that the new Government had cancelled several major projects initiated during his two decades in power, despite assurances they would be carried out after he left office.

"I was not the one to first break the promise, the undertaking given. I made my undertaking publicly, the leader of the new Government did not. But the fact is that promises were made on both sides," he said.

He is also upset that the pace of development of Putrajaya has slowed; peeved that the Johor bridge project has been scrapped; and angered that the National Automotive Policy has put Proton at a disadvantage.

Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin noted that all decisions reached by the Abdullah administration were collective decisions of the Cabinet. He noted that many ministers had also served under Dr Mahathir.

"Maybe what is decided by Pak Lah is not the same as what was decided in Tun’s time, but decisions are based on current needs," Muhyiddin said.

* Dr Mahathir said he disagreed that the Government has no more money for big projects: "I know full well that the Government has never been richer."

"To say the Government has no money because the previous PM spent all the money is not supported by facts," Dr Mahathir said. "My contention is that the Government has plenty of money."

Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz remarked that no one had said the Government is penniless. "That is just coffeeshop talk. But it is widely known that we finished our allocation for the Eighth Malaysia Plan two years ago," he said.

* Dr Mahathir did not openly say that he regretted choosing Abdullah to succeed him instead of current Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, but he claimed Najib had obtained more votes in Umno to inherit the party leadership, and by extension that of the Government. This is an interesting nugget of information, but not without precedent.

After his falling-out with Tun Musa Hitam in 1986, Dr Mahathir picked Tun Ghafar Baba as his deputy, although Abdullah was a more senior vice-president in Umno.

So what is provoking this no-holds- barred attack? Concern that his legacy is being undone? Concern that the country is on the wrong track? Or is it prompted by disappointment that the man he put in office has not turned out to be a yes-man?

"One cannot tell what a person will do when the person is out of your control," Dr Mahathir said yesterday. "I thought I had made the right choice."

So what’s his end game? Dr Mahathir said he would not work to topple his successor: "I am not capable of doing that."

But he did say he would continue watching the Government. So will the millions of Malaysians who gave Abdullah the biggest mandate in history at the 2004 general election.




Q & A with Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad

Q: Can you describe your relationship with the present administration? It looks very fragile.

A: When I decided to step down, I gave an undertaking that I would not involve myself in politics and not interfere with the Government. On the other hand, of course, there were certain things the incoming Government promised to do but did not. In fact, the incoming Government reversed many of the decisions made while its leader was in the (previous) Government.
There were no objections and we agreed fully with all the proposals. And I would have thought that they would be carried out. I understand of course that new leaders want to have an impact and make their mark during their time in power. The times may change, but what was undertaken before would have to be carried out, and new things can be introduced. So the decision not to keep to promises was not mine.
Of course I made my undertaking publicly. The leader of the new Government did not, but the fact is that promises were made on both sides. So if I have to comment, I think I have the right to comment. At present I support the Government, but if they do what I consider to be wrong and nobody seems to be able to voice their opposition, then I will have to stick my neck out.
Sticking my neck out is very familiar to me. I’ve done it many times within the country and outside. So I will again stick my neck out for it to be chopped.


Q: Do you regret quitting?

A: No. One cannot tell exactly what a person will do after he is out of your control. So I thought I made a good choice. I wouldn’t know if, had I picked somebody else, these things would not have happened. They might very well have happened.

Q: Is this your biggest blunder?

A: I have made many blunders in my career. I helped many people up, only for them to stab me in the back. So it is a common trait for me. I’m in the habit of choosing the wrong people. But the present Government can do a good job if they want to. The means are there but if they come under the influence of people who have other agendas, then I can’t help.

Q: Who are you referring to?

A: It is up to the Press to know. You know more than I do.

Q: But during your time the media was controlled and constrained.

A: During my time the Press was quite free. I admit there were certain restrictions because we live in a multiracial society where there are a lot of sensitivities. So we tell them not to stir up racial hatred or we’ll take action against them. You must remember many newspapers printed in the country have not complained to me about being censored. Harakah and Rocket condemned me all the time; they break the law as distribution is for members only. I did not act on them as they did not stir racial hatred.

Q: Pak Lah backstabbed you?

A: Minor bruises, like saying I finished all their money when I know full well it has never been as rich as it is now. Having chosen him as my successor... in fact he was not the first choice, he was second, as he didn’t have the highest vote. Najib had. I chose him and I expect a degree of gratitude. But I was told that I had been involved in megaprojects and finished the money, and nobody has the money now.

Q: Are you engineering the early departure of the PM?

A: No, I’m not capable of that. When he does the right thing, I would have nothing to say or I would support him, but if he does the wrong thing and undermines national interest, then I will have my say.


Q: Are you trying to remove him?

A: I can’t have him removed. It is for his own party to remove him. For Umno to remove him. I’m not helping or going around campaigning and telling people to please remove this man. But I’m supportive of Umno, my party.

Q: Any confidence in the present management?

A:If he keeps on doing the wrong things, I cannot be confident so I’ll keep watching. But it must be something substantial before I pass my comments. Simple things people do, like getting contracts, I will not say anything.

Q: Malaysia has sold sand to Singapore before.

A: Yes, sand was sold to Singapore in small quantities and used for reclaiming areas that didn’t affect us. Once it did, we had to put a stop to it.

Q: Has corruption increased since you retired?

A: Some people think there is more now than before. I don’t have the statistics on corruption during my time or now.


Q: Is Putrajaya not developing since you retired?

A: Putrajaya was built largely on Petronas funds. Petronas made a profit of RM50 billion last year and RM80 billlion this year. Petronas has a lot of money. Petronas can build if you want them to. Of course, it is 100 per cent owned by the Government and pays taxes of RM53 billion. Considering their total income, their inland revenue tax is about RM55 billion. This year it made RM83 billion and spent RM13 billion to subsidise petrol prices for the public, and it still has about RM70 billion, of which it will pay tax of RM30 billion and still have RM40 billion.
Petronas belongs to the Government, so to say the previous Government spent all the money is not supported by the facts.

Q: People are complaining the economy is slower than before.

A: A lot of people are complaining that the economy is not moving at the same rate as before. But the figures show otherwise. So I’m glad for the people who say it is moving. We need to have a breakdown of figures to see if we are looking at the wrong indicators.

Source: NST Online
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  #2  
Old 09-06-2006, 01:40 AM
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Spot Light: I’ve been stabbed in the back, says Dr M

08 Jun 2006


PUTRAJAYA: In his strongest criticism yet of the present Government, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday said he had been stabbed in the back by the very people he had appointed.

He also accused them of not only backtracking on their word, but also of having reversed many decisions made during his time.

Dr Mahathir said he had no qualms about "sticking his neck out for the chopping board" by criticising Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his administration if national interest was at risk.

Short of expressing regret in having chosen Abdullah as his successor, Dr Mahathir said he had made many blunders in his career by helping many up, only for them to stab him in the back.

He said this to reporters after announcing details of the upcoming Global Peace Forum organised by the Perdana Leadership Foundation.

The Press conference attracted a large turnout of journalists, including those from foreign wire services, who asked him many questions on current political issues.

To a question, he said Abdullah, whom he said he had chosen over Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had inflicted "minor bruises" on him when his (Abdullah’s) administration hinted that he had used up all the money when he was prime minister.

Dr Mahathir said this was said against him when it was known "very well the country has never been as rich as it was now. Having chosen him as my successor, when he was not the first choice, I’d expect a degree of gratefulness. So, it is a common trait for me. I’m in the habit of choosing the wrong people.

"But the present Government can do a good job if it wants to. The means are there, but if they come under the influence of people who have other agenda, then I cannot help."

Asked who it was he meant, Dr Mahathir said it was for the Press to know as they knew more than he did.

He said although he had given an undertaking to not involve himself in politics or interfere with the Government, the Government had backtracked on its promises to him.

"Decisions were made then and the leader in the incoming Government was part of it. There were no objections and we agreed fully with all the proposals. I would have thought that they would be carried out.

"I understand, of course, that new leaders want to make an impact and their mark during their period in power. Times may change, but what was undertaken before would have to be carried out and new things can be introduced," he said, adding that the present Government was first to break promises.

Dr Mahathir lashed out at claims that his administration caused the present one to go "bankrupt".

"I tolerated this for as much as possible, including the charge that I finished all of the Government’s money and that they couldn’t have any more projects.

"I would be failing my duty as an ordinary citizen and an ex-prime minister if I don’t direct attention to the wrong things being done."

He described as unacceptable the Government’s move to seek Singapore’s approval for what is done within the country’s territory, the abuse of Approved Permits and "selling something for only RM4 when it had been bought for RM500 million".

He went on to express regret that nobody seemed to be able to say anything on the matter.

Dr Mahathir said he could not have confidence in the Government when it kept making bad calls.

"When he does the right thing, I will say nothing or I’ll support him. But if he does the wrong things, I will have my say.

"At present, I support the Government. I’ll keep watching ... but it must be something substantial before I pass my comments. Simple things like people getting contracts, that I will not say anything."

On claims he was engineering an early departure of the Prime Minister, he said he was not capable of that and it was up to the ruling party to do so.

"I’m not helping or going around campaigning, telling people to remove this man. But I’m supportive of Umno, my party."

Dr Mahathir, who retired in 2003 after 22 years in power, also said that many thought corrupt practices were on the increase now compared with during his administration.

However, he said he did not have statistics on them.

He also reprimanded the Government for the regress in Putrajaya’s development saying the excuse of being penniless was used to discontinue concessions.

"That’s what they say to stop many projects. They have shelved the mosque and the monorail.

"My contention is the Government has lots of money and Putrajaya is built largely from Petronas funds," he said, pointing out that this year it made RM80 billion.

As the oil company was wholly owned by the Government, he said projects in Putrajaya could go ahead as planned if the Government wanted to, as Petronas’ revenue was indirectly theirs.

"So, to say the previous Government spent all the money, that is not supported by facts.

Source: NST Online
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Old 09-06-2006, 01:41 AM
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Najib: I stand by Pak Lah to lead nation

08 Jun 2006


NEW DELHI: Datuk Seri Najib Razak came out in strong support of the Prime Minister, noting that he was committed to leading Malaysia to greater heights.

The Deputy Prime Minister also said that he would stand with Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as he charted the future of the country.

"I am appealing to all leaders, party members and all the rakyat to give full support to the PM," Najib told a Press conference here.

He noted that all prime ministers would do their best in leading the country based on the situation at that point in time.

"When Tun Dr Mahathir was the PM, I believe that Tun did what was best for the country. It is the same with Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. All should give undivided support to Pak Lah as the PM.

"After all, Pak Lah was given a big mandate by the people," said Najib, noting that the PM should not be singled out for criticism as all decisions in Cabinet were made collectively and based on facts.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said Abdullah Ahmad had never spoken ill of Dr Mahathir.

Syed Hamid said he did not know of even one instance when the Prime Minister had said anything bad about his predecessor.

"Not once have I heard him do so. The Government’s strength lies in its ability to build on the foundation already laid out. Whatever it is, it’s still the same Government running the country."

Syed Hamid said it was untrue that Abdullah had backstabbed Dr Mahathir in the manner in which he had run the administration after taking over in 2003.

"It was expected that Pak Lah would administer the country differently.

"He did not backstab Tun. Pak Lah has a lot of respect for Tun and is sensitive towards him," he said in a telephone interview from Australia.

The foreign minister said whatever Abdullah had done was in the best interests of the country and Umno.

He pointed to the continuation of the Vision 2020 concept as proof that Abdullah held Dr Mahathir in high regard.

"The Government’s development plans like the Ninth Malaysia Plan are drafted around the Vision 2020 concept to ensure continuity."

Syed Hamid said Abdullah had also repeatedly stressed the contributions of past leaders to the development of the nation.

On Dr Mahathir’s allegations that the Abdullah administration had made it out that he had bankrupted the country, he said this was far from the truth.

"Nobody would suggest that Tun (Dr Mahathir) had made the country bankrupt."

He felt that the differences between Dr Mahathir and Abdullah’s administration should be addressed.

"It is important that the differences are settled. And he has access to us (the Cabinet)."

Syed Hamid said differences between Dr Mahathir and the Abdullah administration might lead to a divided Umno.

"In the end, the party will suffer (if the differences are not settled)," he added.



Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said

"I have never heard Pak Lah say that Tun spent all the money. Some decisions were made by ministers and announced by the PM. Pak Lah does not make unilateral decisions. There is collective responsibility. To say Pak Lah shot down (decisions) made during Tun’s time is not accurate."



Science, Technology and Innovation Minister, Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis

"Any PM has to make decisions taking into account the current situation. Our focus should be on achieving the goals of the 9MP.’ which is aimed at realising Dr Mahathir’s vision."



Entrepreneur Development and Co-operative Minister, Datuk Khaled Nordin

"It seems that Dr Mahathir was not sincere when he resigned. It’s a pity. Without anyone accusing Dr Mahathir, he has shown his true self. Since Pak Lah took over the leadership of the country, he has encouraged open discussion and listened to the views of everyone before making any decision.’ for the good of the rakyat. If Dr Mahathir wants to blame Pak Lah, it is only because Pak Lah allows, listens to and takes into consideration everybody’s views. “Pak Lah welcomes all viewpoints and Dr Mahathir can also give his views, what more as he is a former prime minister. But the final decision is based on the national interest."



Johor Baru MP and Umno supreme council member, Datuk Shahrir Samad

"Maybe (Dr Mahathir) feels pressured since he retired. Abdullah was not his personal selection. Umno vice-presidents are picked by the party delegates. I don’t think it is fair to say the PM’s way of doings things is stabbing Dr Mahathir in the back."



Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz

"He is entitled to his opinion, which may not be necessarily correct. We have never said the Government has no money. It is common knowledge the Eighth Malaysia Plan money was spent two years ago. We never blamed Tun Dr Mahathir."



MCA president and Minister of Housing and Local Government, Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting

"We wish to stand by our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi just as we supported Tun Dr Mahathir when he was the prime minister. As members of the Cabinet, the MCA ministers collectively participate in decision-making in the best interests of the country. Our PM should not be blamed for decisions made by the Cabinet.’ MCA leaders would like to express our undivided support to Datuk Seri Abdullah and our full confidence in his leadership as PM and Barisan Nasional chairman."



Umno vice-president and Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin

"Tun should not have issued this statement, especially as Pak Lah was his choice to replace him as Prime Minister. Decisions and actions cannot be considered disrespectful to Tun as they have different styles of leadership."
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Old 10-06-2006, 11:38 AM
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I think it is alright for Dr M to express his views. The govt ministers should not criticise him for that but should engage him in debates and answer the questions raised by him or other rakyat. This kind of public scrutiny of govt actions/policies is what had been missing the last 22 years.
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Old 10-06-2006, 12:27 PM
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Funny things is that who was running this country for the last 22 yrs?

Eh, what sort of slams? Slam dunk? Body slam? That would be great to watch.... Our ministers in a wrestling match .....
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Old 10-06-2006, 03:30 PM
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It is worse than slamming! They used to stab each other in the back! And some did not pull out the knife even after they retired! Tun Musa said Mahathir stabbed him and Mahathir said Tun Musa stabbed him! More a case of daimond cut daimond??
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Old 10-06-2006, 04:36 PM
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I don't think it's as simple as a simply scorned Tun. I reckon all the issues brought up are just the smokescreen before an approaching forest fire. When has Tun M ever said anything just for the sake of "stating his opinion"? I believe larger issues are at stake, not something as trivial as him being angry about damage to his legacy.
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Old 10-06-2006, 10:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seantang
I don't think it's as simple as a simply scorned Tun. I reckon all the issues brought up are just the smokescreen before an approaching forest fire. When has Tun M ever said anything just for the sake of "stating his opinion"? I believe larger issues are at stake, not something as trivial as him being angry about damage to his legacy.

08 Jun 2006
Brendan Pereira Watch every report by this journalist. If you read his article, he is not reporting. He is basically painting a negative image of one side and positive image for another side. He thinks all Malaysians are stupid and swallow all his reports just because it is in print. I do not know much about who is right or who is wrong, nor do I care, but by reading this journalist's report, I know he is guilty of been bribed by someone to play a one sided role. Unfortunately, not every Malaysian is that gullible.
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Old 10-06-2006, 11:23 PM
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'It's not personal...'

10 Jun 2006
Wan Hamidi Hamid

KUALA LUMPUR: Again, it was vintage Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad all over.



Two days after suggesting that he made the wrong choice in picking Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to inherit his mantle and railed against him for rolling back some of his policies, the former PM attempted to hit the pause button.

And from now on, Malaysians must getused to the ebb and flow of Dr Mahathir’s missives against the Abdullah administration.

Some days, he will go for the jugular, like he did on Wednesday when he launched the scathing attack on the PM, accusing him of back-stabbing him.

Some days he will use the lexicon of a victim, like he did yesterday, when he said that he was not being personal when he attacked Abdullah. Instead, he now accuses the media of demonising him; and he accuses his former Cabinet colleagues of turning their backs on him.

He said he was disappointed that he did not receive answers to some questions he raised on the sale of MV Agusta, the National Automotive Policy and its impact on Proton and the decision to call off the bridge project.

(The Proton management and the Government have explained in detail the reasons for these decisions.)

Over the years, Dr Mahathir’s most effective tactic has been to focus on his message, no matter what the distraction, no matter how faulty the premise. Over the years, his most pungent comments have come soaked in sarcasm. Yesterday was no different.

Dr Mahathir said he wanted an explanation on issues such as the removal of Tan Sri Tengku Mahaleel Tengku Ariff as the chief executive officer of Proton, the sale by Proton of its Italian subsidiary and high-powered motorcyle manufacturer MV Agusta for only one euro and thousands of Approved Permits (AP) issued to a few individuals for the import of luxury cars.

"I can’t understand, I raised questions about Proton, about AP, Agusta but none of these had been explained."

He said if people were afraid to speak out against some of the Government’s decisions, he had to highlight these issues himself.

"Instead (they say) Dr Mahahtir can’t speak like that, he doesn’t have the right to speak, he is ex-prime minister, go and sleep," he told reporters after presenting his keynote address at the International Islamic Fair 2006 here yesterday.



Below are excerpts of his Press conference:



Q: What is your comment on the Cabinet Ministers’ reactions?



A: Instead of explaining about the subjects that I raised and complained about, all the talk is about whether I am right in making a criticism or not; whether I am following the Umno tradition and all that. But the questions that I raised received no answer. Maybe it is because they don’t have an answer. These were my Cabinet Ministers you know. I thought they agreed with me. As I said, I always make mistakes in choosing people.



Q: Is it the Government’s official view or just a perception that you used all the money on mega projects?



A: The PM didn’t say it. The PM never said anything. But there are people who said we couldn’t continue anymore with mega projects because we have no more money.



Q: Do you view this as a clash with Pak Lah?



A: I’m not clashing with Pak Lah. I don’t agree with some of the things done and I want to know why. Why can’t we build the bridge? I want to know that.



Q: Do you have a problem with the Government?



A: I don’t have any problems with the Government. I have problem with these things, the things done now. You shouldn’t ask questions, you should keep your mouth shut.




Q: So how is this issue resolved?



A: Please explain. Why was MV Agusta sold for one euro? How did it arrive at that price? I’ve already asked this. I’ve written the questions. But no answers. I want to know why Tengku Mahaleel was sacked, what was wrong with him? I want to know.



Q: Your view on Cabinet Ministers disagreeing with you?



A: The very decision that they agreed before now they have a new leader, they now disagree. If they disagreed before, they should have told me.



Q: On Pak Lah’s comment that Dr Mahathir was entitled to his own views?



A: I’m happy. I’m very happy with all the comments. That he says it’s my right to speak, yes, very good, thank you very much. Now I am speaking to you because he says I have a right to speak. But some others say I have no right to speak. Sorry.



Before the Press conference ended, Dr Mahathir told journalists that much of what they had written in their notebooks would not be published. "No need to write this. You cannot write this. Because Kalimullah (New Straits Times Press deputy chairman) will make a phone call. Yesterday Kalimullah already made the calls. He called The Star," he said.

(The Star’s Group Editor-in-Chief Datuk Wong Sulong yesterday dismissed Dr Mahathir’s statement, saying that he has "never received any advice or instructions from Kalimullah".

Wong said the last time he met Kalimullah was at a wedding reception two weeks ago where they chatted socially.

"The conversation was absolutely social in nature. I’ve not met or spoken to Datuk Kalimullah since then," he said.)

Source: NST Online
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Old 10-06-2006, 11:24 PM
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An open letter to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad: Not going gentle into that good night

09 Jun 2006
By Rehman Rashid

WHY, Tun?
That’s what we — the products, inhabitants, stewards and legatees of the country you designed and built — need to know. Why have you become so harsh a critic of your successor’s administration?


You made them, too. They have cleaved to your vision of what this country needs to be, and they are moving forward — or at least attempting to, as best they can, given the way forward as they see it.

It wasn’t necessarily their way forward; it was yours. No one has argued with the road map you drafted for this country, nor the direction you determined, nor even with the pace you set to get where you wanted us to go.

Nothing of your legacy as prime minister has been dismantled. Such restructuring as is happening in the corporate Malaysia Inc you established — Proton and MAS in particular — is for companies in desperate trouble, needing to be re-engineered to new and more businesslike specifications. Whether this will turn them around remains to be seen, but it needed to be done.

On the fuel price hike, your suggestion that fuel subsidies could have been maintained by allowing the exchange rate to float was, well, radical. Certainly, so was your decision to peg the ringgit to the US dollar during the Asian financial meltdown in 1998. By that time the claws of the crisis had sunk deep, and there was no lack of popular and political support for your soon-to-be famously successful move.

But the present administration, in reducing fuel subsidies, was responding to imperatives of long-term prudence, and that too has been by-and-large accepted and supported by the people. Times have changed, Tun. You should know: You changed them.

In the case of the Tebrau bridge, you seemed beside yourself with irritation. But it was precisely with respect to national sovereignty that the idea was scrapped; it’s hard to understand how you could have implied otherwise.

We know it’s a gamble, but for this term at least, the electorate have fallen behind the present administration with a greater mandate than you received even at the record-breaking height of your popularity.

But that was in 1982. For the ensuing 21 years, you charged forward with stupendous resolve, damning the torpedoes, brooking scant dissent, building this city on rock and roll.

Your successor is more graceful at the waltz, it seems — and so far the people have responded fondly enough to that, too.

How has Malaysia changed in the first half-term of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration? It’s quieter. More circumspect. There’s more introspection at the top; a need, as much as a willingness, to listen, perhaps even more than to speak.

There’s greater inclusion, more accommodation. Necessarily in these circumstances, and yet so easily depicted as indecisiveness, there’s less unilateralism. And certainly, less of a hell-for-leather, gung-ho, we’ll-do-it-our-way charge at the future.

Yes, there’s less money sloshing around the system; there are fewer big buckets to draw from. This Government has turned away from top-down economic development through megaprojects towards those grassroots sectors where but a fistful of ringgit might mean as much as thousands in other palms.

It’s a necessary attention, somewhat sidelined in your time, and quite cost-effective in terms of improving the lives of those Malaysians who could most do with it (and being recognised for it at the ballot box).

The present administration is not to be criticised for this. Which is by no means to say it is not to be criticised at all — even in the most strident, sneering or contemptuous terms, if that helps get a valid point across.

Just, please Tun, not by you. Our nation’s history should not have to deal again with the bitter irony of a revered leader leaving office honourably — indeed, covered in glory — only to henceforth speak for the far fringes of the Opposition.

It’s time to let us go, Tun. For better or worse, we owe our character as a modern nation to you. This is what we are now. This is the way we’re going. God knows, we may stumble or fall, stray off-track or derail entirely. We may reveal ourselves to be not as you had hoped but as you feared: effete, incompetent, mediocre; a polity of petty concerns, narrow minds and limited abilities.

But we’ll struggle along as best we can, for better or worse, as who and what we are. We have to. You taught us that.

It’s your choice, of course; you still have the keys to the kingdom granted you by a grateful populace for having carried them from the past to the future in a single generation. The respect accorded you will last forever; there would be no way to discredit what you did for Malaysia without virtually negating Malaysia itself.

But you of all men should know there are only three choices for the rare few: Lead, follow, or step aside.

Source: NST Online
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