Abdullah should explain whether he would choose his Deputy Prime Minister or he would restore UMNO party democracy and allow UMNO to choose the UMNO Deputy President to become the DPM

Media Conference Statement (3)
- launching of the second phase of “No to 911, No to 929, Yes to 1957” People’s Awareness Campaign in Penang 
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang,  Saturday):  Who is going to be the new No. 2 in government and UMNO at the end of the 16-month power transition period when Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad fully transfers the reins of power of Prime Minister to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is one of the keenest political issues of the day.  

Mahathir said it would be up to Abdullah to name his deputy after taking over as Prime Minister. 

Abdullah said that it is too early to speculate on the new Deputy Prime Minister,  while UMNO Vice President Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who had been tantalizingly mentioned by Mahathir as the possible successor, said it was best to leave it to Abdullah and Mahathir  to decide who is to be the new DPM. 

While who is the new UMNO Deputy President is for UMNO to decide, who is to be the new Deputy Prime Minister is a matter of public interest and  Malaysians are entitled to express their concern.

Although Abdullah can wait until the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit in Kuala Lumpur in October next year when Mahathir fully steps down as Prime Minister before deciding on who is to be the new Deputy Prime Minister, Abdullah should explain what precedent he would follow in appointing his new No. 2.

In the first precedent in 1976, when Hussein Onn was suddenly made Prime Minister because of the death of Tun Razak in London of leukaemia in January 1976, Hussein Onn was seriously considering departing from the H\Huss

 UMNO tradition of appointing a deputy  from the three incumbent UMNO Vice Presidents by appointing the then powerful Home Minister, Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie as Deputy Prime Minister.  The three UMNO incumbent vice presidents, Ghafar Baba, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad ganged up to send an ultimatum to Hussein Onn that he must pick a deputy from one of the three UMNO Vice Presidents. In the event, Hussein Onn chose the Vice President with the lowest number of votes, Mahathir, to be the Deputy Prime Minister and consequently the Acting  UMNO Deputy President.

In the second precedent in 1981, when Mahathir became the fourth Prime Minister because of Hussein Onn’s ill-health, Mahathir made it clear that he would not personally decide who was to be the Deputy Prime Minister, but would leave it to UMNO to decide who was to be the new Deputy President, who would also become the Deputy Prime Minister.

This led to the  first battle royale between Musa Hitam and Razaleigh Hamzah at the UMNO General Assembly in July 1981 just before Hussein Onn retired from public life, where Musa won with a comfortable majority of over 200 votes although  Razaleigh started off as the hot-favourite.

It also laid the seeds for the second battle royale between Musa and Razaleigh in 1984, before both of them ganged up to wage the third battle royale against Mahathir and Ghafar in 1987 – where Mahathir won with a wafer-thin majority.

Abdullah should explain whether he would adopt the Hussein Onn precedent to personally appoint his Deputy Prime Minister or the Mahathir precedent for UMNO to decide who is to be the UMNO Deputy President and DPM  - and in the process restore UMNO party democracy which had not seen any party elections for the two  top parlty posts for 15 years after 1987.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman