Sunday, July 02, 2006

Mahathir vs Abdullah Badawi. Getting to the heart of Dr M’s unhappiness.

Long article in today's NST about why Tun M is going berserk. Lot's of sources from UMNO and political commentators... BUT nobody mentions anything about Khairy and perceived impropriety within the PM's family.

It's become quite clear to me, from statements by
Tun M, Matthias Chang, Mohd Sabu, Nazri Aziz that Khairy and his Oxbridge boys on Lvl 4 of Putrajaya are right at the center of this feud. And that's if you have never read Raja Petra Kamarudin's "The Khairy Chronicles".

I've put in my own 2 cents that
Anwar Ibrahim's probably's involved as well and it might be that Tun M is spitting the dummy because the current govt released his nemesis from prison and has done nothing to suppress Anwar's legal action against him. Tun M cannot but realise that the threat of Anwar Ibrahim will inevitably grow with time, and he's not alone to think that the current judiciary seems extremely willing to un-encumber Anwar Ibrahim legally.

So, what does this article contribute? To me,.. nothing new. It's tries hard to reinforce to the general public that Tun M is just being petty about the dismantling of his legacy. It completely ignores the fact that Tun M is concerned about Khairy or
the distinct possibility of the threat that a resurgent Anwar Ibrahim poses to him.

But wait, this is the NST after all. Spin doctor extraordinaire.

Comment: Getting to the heart of Dr M’s unhappiness (NST Online)

02 Jul 2006

What’s the endgame for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his strident criticism of the Government? ABDUL RAZAK AHMAD weighs the views of observers and Umno officials.

IN the row between Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his successor’s administration, the big question has got to be how far he is willing to go.

Will he continue to question, after the last answer is given by the relevant ministries on the issues he raised, ranging from Proton to the bridge replacing the Causeway?

If he does, will he be expelled from Umno and repeat the chapter in 1969, when he was booted out of the party for his criticisms of Tunku Abdul Rahman?

For Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Professor Datuk Dr Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, getting to the answers means understanding what the spat is about at its core.

"In essence, this is about Dr Mahathir being unhappy with Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s performance, and about Abdullah wanting to do his own thing, and what that means."

Shamsul, who heads UKM’s Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation, says "doing his own thing" means Abdullah has to bear two major elements in mind.

First, his management style, which differs from Dr Mahathir’s. The Prime Minister is "informed by the need for transparency, ethics, and responsibility".

"It’s tough to pull off. The style is different from Dr Mahathir’s for whom, in some areas, the ends justify the means. For Abdullah, every means must be clarified, even if we don’t get to the end result at times."

There are many examples of this, says Shamsul.

Abdullah is "clearing up" the police with initiatives such as the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission. In the political sphere, strong support for the drive against money politics has already led to action against incumbents such as Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad.

In the legislature, too, Abdullah’s encouragement of openness has led to a more vocal Backbenchers’ Club and Public Accounts Committee.

"You also see it in his determination to restore confidence in the judiciary and in measures like the National Integrity Plan and a National Integrity Institute. Some may rubbish these initiatives, but they demonstrate Abdullah’s willingness to invest time and effort in so-called ‘unimportant abstractions’."

The second component of Abdullah’s burden is managing the collateral damage from the many successes Dr Mahathir brought to Malaysia.

"We’re often overawed by Dr Mahathir’s many achievements like the Petronas Twin Towers, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the North-South Expressway. But there have been failures, too, like Perwaja Steel. These have to be managed by Abdullah as well.

"Perhaps some, including Dr Mahathir’s supporters, are feeling the heat from all of this, because the full consequences of Abdullah’s new style is yet to be seen."

Shamsul believes no amount of "micro-level" answers from the Government will appease Dr Mahathir.

"Take Proton. We can argue over details like the sale of MV Agusta, but the core issue is that Dr Mahathir disagrees that Proton be seen in pure economic terms. For him, there’s an overriding national interest.

"Is there wisdom is investing so much on a national car project? Is there wisdom in building a bridge that divides? These are core questions I think he wants explanations to. No amount of answering about sand statistics, for example, is likely to satisfy Dr Mahathir."

That means that the situation now, as Shamsul puts it, is at a "cul-de-sac; a dead end".

"No Government in the world can explain everything in detail. When the answers don’t satisfy and the questions cause confusion, it will lead to no good," says Umno information chief Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib.

As Umno Youth information chief Datuk Azimi Daim says in a statement on Tuesday on behalf of the movement: "The question now is whether Tun is really interested in the answers. Or is he only interested in reinstating his policies?"

"He’s putting the Government in a difficult position," says Azimi when asked on the movement’s view. "Different leaders will have different styles. The way one leader prioritises his duties will be different from that of his predecessor."

For Umno, one other major concern over Dr Mahathir is the impression that he is cavorting with the Opposition.

His speech last Saturday at a function in Kuala Lumpur with Pas leaders in the audience led to this impression.

"It’s causing confusion among the public and party members, because Dr Mahathir is not just anybody," says Muhammad.

He says that some in the party believe that because Dr Mahathir has done so much for the country he should not be censured. "But if we’re no longer aligned to party interests and associate with the Opposition, some say that’s a clear ethical breach, and there is a mechanism to deal with such offences."

Therein lies the dilemma for some in the party.

"Should we take disciplinary action? If we do, then some will object because Dr Mahathir did so much for us. But does that then mean that someone who has contributed much is free to go against party discipline and can do as he pleases, like having a ceramah with Pas?

"Does toleration and transparency reach that level? This is what some are confused about. It’s an interesting development," he says.

Muhammad says he’s not suggesting that action should be taken against Dr Mahathir. "But when he was prime minister and party president, all of us were diasuh (trained) to be loyal to the party first. I was Menteri Besar for 11 years, and Dr Mahathir taught me that when we’re loyal to the party, no action by any individual can affect Umno," he says.

At one point, rumours, fuelled by the Opposition, surfaced that the party was mulling Dr Mahathir’s expulsion. The Umno leadership denied it, but there is a precedent.

Dr Mahathir was sacked on Sept 26, 1969, for his open criticism of Tunku Abdul Rahman following the race riots in May. He was then a supreme council member who had lost narrowly in the general election to Pas’ Datuk Yusuf Rawa.

He continued to express his strident views. But some, notably Tunku’s successor, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, saw a larger potential in Dr Mahathir, and on March 7, 1972, he was re-admitted into the party, and began a meteoric rise to the top.

Is history about to repeat itself?

UKM political science lecturer Mohammad Agus Yusoff thinks not.

"The scenario is different. Back then, Dr Mahathir was mainly seen as an Umno activist and ultra-Malay. He held strong views on race matters, which were seen by the establishment as threatening to the country’s stability.

"But who is Dr Mahathir now? A former national leader at the helm of the country and party for over two decades. Many in the current Cabinet were under his tutelage (anak didik).

"It’s illogical for Umno to simply sack and cast him aside. The differences then and now are like sky and earth," says Agus, who attended Dr Mahathir’s talk last Saturday.

For Shamsul, the expulsion of Dr Mahathir from Umno isn’t the issue.

"Dr Mahathir is going through something similar to Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim when he got together with non-governmental organisations and Pas leaders. By doing this, he seems to be pandering to the more informed segment of his supporters. But expelling Dr Mahathir will not change anything. He will continue talking anyway. It will be too narrow a response.

"What needs to be done now is for the issues to be seen in their proper context. Anything beyond that is purely emotional."

Umno’s supreme council has expressed full support for the leadership of Abdullah, but on the ground, views are mixed.

A divisional committee member in Dr Mahathir’s home State of Kedah, contacted during a break in his branch meeting which went on well into the evening on Friday, explains.

"Dr Mahathir is our tok (elder). We feel that the way we respond to him must not be too excessive. There is sadness at the grassroots over the current state of affairs. We’re appealing to Pak Lah and Dr Mahathir to find a resolution."

Terengganu Umno information chief Ahmad Shabery Cheek says he’s been meeting and listening to many lower-line party and community leaders in the past three weeks, since Dr Mahathir made an earlier round of criticism.

"Initially, there were mixed feelings. Some felt we should not react to Dr Mahathir’s criticism, because if we did, the issue could escalate into an open conflict between him and the top party leaders.

"My impression was that the grassroots wanted things to remain sober. They wanted Umno and the Government to look more closely at possibilities for reconciliation."

But things started changing after Dr Mahathir’s talk last Saturday.

"In my division now (he is Kemaman Umno deputy chief), I notice that sentiments are shifting. People are getting confused when they see and hear Dr Mahathir appearing at the same event as Pas leaders and Datuk Ibrahim Ali, someone about whom they have strong reservations. They are asking why Dr Mahathir is doing this."

Ahmad Shabery says that the grassroots’ primary concerns are not the minutiae of the bridge issue or Proton, which many are not familiar with in the first place.

"They’re not happy when Dr M appears with the Opposition. They say Dr Mahathir seems to be slowly moving away from his core followers, not the Malay mass outside the party, but the people at ground level in Umno who’ve endeared themselves to him."

Ahmad Shabery, who as Foreign Ministry parliamentary secretary has been helping to prepare answers on the bridge issue, says providing the explanations on the questions Dr Mahathir raised is not a problem.

"In fact, if Dr Mahathir has created the impression that he’s criticising Abdullah’s performance in managing the economy, then we can also explain how Dr Mahathir, in the early part of his administration, faced similar challenges.

The problem, says Ahmad Shabery, is in trying to describe why Dr Mahathir has gone on the warpath.

"It’s harder to explain why he is coming out like this, why he didn’t raise this behind closed doors, why he’s associating with people like Ibrahim Ali and Pas, and whether Dr Mahathir is going to end up like Datuk Onn Jaafar, who founded Umno but did not die an Umno member. All that we also have to explain," he says.

Dr Mahathir’s recent criticisms have caught many by surprise. But some who know him well, like former party secretary-general Tan Sri Sabbaruddin Chik, could sense something amiss early on.

"I’ve seen him since he retired ... and although he never said it out loud, I could sense he believed that something was not right."

Sabbaruddin, now a member of Umno’s appeals panel, was among the many civil servants Dr Mahathir picked out and groomed.

The former Cabinet minister says opinions about Dr Mahathir’s criticisms are mixed among party veterans and members. But he believes there’s still "room" for a resolution.

"Let’s try to give answers to all that he’s asking. No need to ‘whack’ him. Once we answer him properly, then he won’t be able to do anything."

But what if Dr Mahathir is still dissatisfied with answers?

"Then I think many people will, well, people like me, will definitely think again. But that’s something we shouldn’t think about now. Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it," says Sabbaruddin.

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