By: Maria J.Dass (Mar 13, 2009)
KUALA LUMPUR (March 13, 2009): Former Umno supremo and premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad(pic) said today it did not necessarily follow that the president of Umno should become the prime minister of the country, as this is not provided in the Federal Constitution.
"It has merely been a practice for us in Umno," he said, in answer to a question from the press on whether it was possible that the planned power transition from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak may not take place.
He said this at a press conference at the Al-Bukhary Foundation on the Sultan Abdul Hamid Old Collegians' Association new building launch next week. He fielded questions from reporters after talking about the launch and about his alma mater.
"So if he (Abdullah) wants to remain as prime minister and Datuk Seri Najib as president…It was the same situation during my time when I became Umno president. Tun Hussein Onn did not relinquish his prime minister’s post for about two weeks," he said.
"In this case, I don’t know, we should wait and see, but it does not matter if it is two weeks or ten weeks, the rakyat is watching and when it is time for elections, they will express their opinion. Like in 2008 they will speak through the ballot boxes to show that this is our feeling…you can control Umno and all the members in the party, but you cannot control the people," Mahathir added.
Umno's general assembly will be held from March 24-28 and will feature elections for party positions. Najib is the sole nominee for the presidency while the other tops posts are being hotly contested. The date for the power transition has yet to be fixed, although it was earlier reported to be in April.
Mahathir said the future of Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) rests on the delegates to the Umno AGM and it would be a "disaster" for this country and "certainly disaster for Umno and the Barisan Nasional (BN) if the representatives were to elect people who everybody knows use money (to buy votes)".
He said: "You can bribe Umno by giving posts, places, money, contracts…you can bribe Umno but the Rakyat has one vote and they will know what to do with it."
Asked when he planned to return to Umno, he said: "My condition to return to the party was that I will do so when Pak Lah (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) steps down as president."
"He has done things damaging to the country," was Mahathir’s response when asked what his main grouse with Abdullah was. "Alternatively you can also ask ‘what has he done in six years?’ What has he done? You have think very hard, there are corridors, we will have verandahs after that."
On the Perak crisis, Mahathir said both parties fighting over rights to administer the state are guilty of not adhering to the law.
"There is too much emotion involved; when all they need to do is study the law to see what to do and what not to do," he said.
On the economic stimulus package Mahathir said RM60 billion was the right amount of allocation for Malaysia to weather the global economic downturn.
However, there is a need to ensure the money is used to produce the best results, he said. "There are times money needs to be used to help businesses and there are times you have to help individuals."
On the protest over the teaching of Maths and Science in English, Mahathir said many of the protestors themselves had studied in English medium schools. "Now they don’t want others to get what they have and this is not good."
"Despite studying totally in English from primary school until I graduated from University, I am still able to speak Malay and consider myself a Malay nationalist, I did not become an English nationalist because I could speak English."