Dr M quits Umno after accepting ‘dare’ to be first to resign
ALOR STAR, Mon:
After goading Umno members today to temporarily resign from Umno as a sign of protest against the party president, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took up a “dare” to take the lead by resigning from the party he had been a founding member of since 1946. However, he implored Umno members taking up his challenge not to join any other party and remain independent, at least until the Umno leadership was determined (after the December party elections). He indicated that he will only rejoin the party when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi steps down as Umno president.
Dr Mahathir, an Umno life member, was answering questions from the floor after giving a talk at a forum entitled 'Future of the Malays after the 12th General Election' at the Star City Hotel in Alor Star, organised by the Kedah Malay Assembly Hall, when a member of the audience asked him if he would take the lead in quitting Umno.Identifying himself as Ismail Jaziz, he asked Dr Mahathir if he would take the lead since he had mooted the idea. To this, Dr Mahathir, in a serious tone said: “Waa, saya di cabar ni…(looks like I have been dared). Yes, I will leave Umno...until the party leadership is determined. Other Umno members should follow me.”Loud cheers erupted from the 1,500 attendees, which included assembly chairman Tan Sri Khalid Ahmad, Jerlun Umno division chairman Datuk Abdul Rahman Ariffin, State Assemblyman for Kuala Nerang Datuk Syed Sobri Syed Hashim, State Assemblywoman for Sungai Tiang Suraya Yaacob and former Kedah Menteri Besar Tan Sri Sanusi Junid."Malays, Umno members and many other people have sent Abdullah messages to express dissatisfaction with his leadership, especially after the March 8 general election but he remains unaffected. We have to be radical and brave and this is the only way to bring him down," he said.
It is not immediately clear if his son, Datuk Mukhriz, also the MP for Jerlun and an Umno Youth Exco member, would follow suit. Another of Dr Mahathir’s son, Datuk Mokhzani, was reported as saying that his father's decision was a “sign of no confidence” in Abdullah’s leadership.Abdullah, in an immediate reaction, expressed shock at Dr Mahathir's resignation, saying" I didn't expect him to leave but I will continue to fight for the party."One notable Umno leader who has apparently took on Dr Mahathir's call to resign is Sanusi, who said he will release an official statement later.However, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, once Dr Mahathir's greatest foe but now seen as a key ally, dismissed expectations that he too would quit Umno, saying that he will continue with his bid to challenge Abdullah for the party presidency in the December party elections.Datuk Shahrir Samad, an Umno supreme council member and Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, was quoted by AFP as saying that Dr Mahathir's resignation may precipitate a general election."The shock resignation may compel many Umkno members, especially MPs, to quit Umno, thus forcing the Prime Minister to form a new Government or call for a snap election," Shahrir was quoted as saying.The former Prime Minister's announcement also caught his aides by surprise.Dr Mahathir explained that this was not the first time he was out of Umno. “Between 1969 and 1970, I was expelled from Umno but later, when many Malays and Umno members still supported me, I re-entered Umno. There was no problem. Just don’t join other parties.”At a Press conference later, Dr Mahathir said he will submit his resignation from Umno as soon as possible.He explained that that he decided to leave Umno because he felt the party could no longer serve as a genuine political party to protect Malay rights and interests, Umno's founding objectives.Dr Mahathir claimed Umno had now been made a party to only recognise Abdullah as Umno president and accord importance to the prime minister's family interests, with the nation's welfare taking a backseat. "I can list out the things that Abdullah had done to the detriment of our nation's interests," he said. "The Umno of today no longer holds to the party's founding goals when it was formed 62 years ago. That is why I have no hesitation whatsoever to leave the party," he said.Dr Mahathir said it was high time for Umno members who love the party to be bold for the future of Malays and that such a move would not cause the Malays to lose their political power."The Malays would not lose their political power. They want to correct things not because they simply want to leave. If they are brave to safeguard the party and the Malay struggles, then they must also be brave to take actions. However, we find that many Umno members can't even attend certain gatherings...division chairmen also cannot attend...what is this?"Dr Mahathir said when Tengku Razaleigh opposed him in 1988, former prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had thrown his support for his opponent but he had never stopped any member to campaign against him (Dr Mahathir)."Now, we cannot say anything against the prime minister or the party president. This is not Umno," he said.Asked if Umno state assemblymen and MPs should also quit the party, he said they should if they truly love the party.Asked if his call and decision could be construed as him giving up on Umno, Dr Mahathir said he would not ask others to follow him if he himself was afraid to do so. Asked if his call would give added pressure for Abdullah to resign from his posts soon, Mahathir said: "I don't know about pressure. This man could not understand anything."Dr Mahathir insisted that his resignation had nothing to do with the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Lingam video clip. "That is a court matter and I go to the courts. If they make allegations against me, I could also do the same and if I am found guilty, they can put me in jail but if I am not guilty, please don't arrest me anyway," he said. “I am just protesting against the Abdullah’s leadership of Umno and country."In their report leaked to the Press, the Commission of Inquiry named Dr Mahathir, lawyer Datuk V. K. Lingam, former chief justices Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Tun Eusoff Chin, tycoon Tan Sri Vincent Tan and former tourism minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor, for conspiring to fix the appointments and promotions of judges.The government's then instructed the Attorney-General to begin investigations into the six figures named but Dr Mahathir responded by claiming that he would "not settle for less" than his day in court so that he could defend himself against allegations that he was at the centre of a judicial appointments scandal in 2001.Dr Mahathir had hoped that when investigations into the conspiracy were completed, he would be charged so that he can reveal what really went on behind the scenes at the time, including instances of judges lobbying him for promotions.Mahathir’s resignation was a culmination of two years of vitriolic criticisms against Abdullah. Dr Mahathir began finding fault with Abdullah after the latter cancelled several mega projects initiated by the ex-PM, notably the new bridge that would link Singapore with Johor Baru.In an immediate reaction, former Umno secretary-general Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat said Dr Mahathir is was the only leader who left Umno, pointing to Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Hussein Onn who never returned to Umno.“Yet, they were founding fathers of the party. They never return to the party after retiring so there is nothing unusual about his resignation. It has happened in the past and it happens now. It is unfortunate that after making so much noise, he is leaving the party. “His leaving would not have a serious effect to the party and I do not think that his action will be heeded by other members as they still love the party. After the last general election, Umno members have reflected deeply on what they should do to revive and revitalise Umno. They would not desert the party.”MCA vice president Datuk Ong Tee Keat said the resignation came as a shock to him because he never expected Dr Mahathir to do it. “Not at this juncture. At the moment, I am not sure what sort of effect or ripples it will cause BN and MCA. But I am convinced Umno, as an established party within the BN coalition, would have sufficient experience and maturity in resolving such problem. What is more important now is for BN to stay firmly together”. Gerakan secretary general Datuk Seri Chia Kwang Chye expressed shock at Dr Mahathir’s resignation. “This is shocking, it’s hard to believe. I hope this will not bring further instability to Barisan Nasional. I also hope things will settle down and the matter resolved in a calm manner.”MIC secretary-general Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said it was unfortunate for Dr Mahathir to resign from the party which he had been a president for a long time. “His instigating others to follow suit in light of the current problems faced by the party, will further weaken it. We hope other members will be clear-headed in this matter.”Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Datuk Yong Teck Lee said Dr Mahathir’s resignation sent shock waves because of his immense influence among Umno grassroots.” I think the nation is in for some exciting politics,” he said.Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) president Datuk Liew Vui Keong said Dr Mahathir’s decision should be respected and accepted by all concerned. “I can only wish him the best. His resignation may cause a ripple, but how far it will have an effect is best left to the party.”Sabah Umno liaison committee secretary Datuk Yahya Hussin described the resignation as “very unfortunate” because he was “our president.”