Mahathir should explain when he returns  on Wednesday what resignations  he intended to announce at the closing session of the 56th UMNO General Assembly and the reasons

Media Statement 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya,  Monday): In the past week, there had been three versions of what resignations Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had intended to announce at the closing session of the 56th General Assembly on June 22, 2002, namely:

That Mahathir’s resignations from government and party were to take effect at the end of the year but they had to be  extended to a 16-month power transition period on the pleas of the UMNO leaders;

That the 16-month power transition time-table to fully hand over the powers and office of Prime Minister to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after the  Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Kuala Lumpur in October 2003 that was eventually announced after the Supreme Council meeting last Tuesday was actually what he intended to announce, but he was unable to finish his prepared statement as he was stopped and  mobbed by sobbing UMNO leaders in the ensuing  emotional eruption at the UMNO General Assembly.

That it was all a sandiwara, planned and orchestrated every step of the way, in line with  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. 

Yesterday’s interviews by Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir, the Prime Minister’s son, and Datuk Seri  Rafidah Aziz, Wanita UMNO chief had reinforced  a fourth version which was not taken seriously for the past week – that Mahathir had genuinely intended to announce his resignation as Prime Minister, Finance Minister, UMNO President and Barisan Nasional Chairman with immediate effect and for Abdullah to take over as the No. 1 in government and party accordingly.

Mokhzani said Rafidah had played the most important role to change Mahathir’s stand from immediate resignation to a 16-month transition plan which he disclosed to the UMNO Management Committee the next morning before his departure for a 10-day Mediterranean leave.

The statements by various UMNO leaders have created a maze of contradictions, doubts and  and confusion, the latest by the UMNO Secretary-General and Information Minister, Tan Sri Khalil Yaakob, that Mahathir’s wish to give up all his party and political posts after October 2003 was  his own decision and not a compromise reached with the UMNO Management Committee, and that “perhaps Dr Mahathir wanted to announce the date during his winding up speech at the 56th Umno General Assembly but circumstances prevented him from doing so”.

On his return  from his Mediterranean leave on Wednesday, Mahathir should tell-all and   clear up the teeming  contradictions,  doubts and confusion  created by his sudden resignation, “retraction” and “non-retraction” drama as well as the reasons for his sudden “resignation” announcement.

If Mahathir had wanted to resign immediately from all government and party posts on June 22 itself, he should explain why he had not groomed Abdullah properly for a smooth and orderly transition as his successor to be the fifth Prime Minister of Malaysia, as Abdullah was never once appointed Acting Prime Minister in the  50-60 overseas trips he made in the 30 months Abdullah was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister since  January 1999.

If the 16-month transition plan for Mahathir to fully resign as UMNO President, Barisan Nasional Chairman and Prime Minister had always been part of his “smooth and orderly transition plan” when he rose to wind up the UMNO General Assembly debate, then there should be room for discussion and  debate as to whether this is the best transition plan possible for Mahathir, Abdullah and the country  or whether there are other options and why they were not considered or adopted.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman