Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Friday, 17th October 2008: 

Can Abdullah last as Prime Minister till next March and is Mahathir orchestrating Abdullah’s earlier exit in December?

At the DAP Bagan 6,000-People Solidarity Dinner in Penang last night, I said I did not know whether Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will continue to be Prime Minister by next March, although Abdullah has said that he wanted to devote his last five months as Malaysia’s fifth Prime Minister to accomplish some of the reforms which he had failed to honour – in particular, the judiciary, anti-corruption and the police.

I told the dinner crowd that a campaign was afoot inside Umno to force Abdullah to leave the Putrajaya corridors of power earlier than the March deadline.

This pressure has now surfaced publicly with UMNO Vice President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin again playing the “stalking horse” in suggesting a scenario which will see another modification of Abdullah’s original but tattered mid-2010 power transition power and his earlier exit as Prime Minister in December this year.

Muhyiddin’s call is deliberately timed so that it could be endorsed by the Umno divisions holding their meetings this weekend as to create a “popular” momentum which could justify a further UMNO Supreme Council modification of the power transition plan.

The question that is uppermost in many minds is whether former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is now back “in the saddle”, although has quit Umno, and orchestrating Abdullah’s earlier exit in December?

Mahathir had denied that he will be the “de facto” PM and the power behind the throne when Datuk Seri Najib Razak becomes the sixth Prime Minister, dismissing as nonsense talk that Najib was his man and that he (Mahathir) could influence Najib.

But who would believe Mahathir? It would be interesting to put this question to a public opinion survey and see the results.

What Malaysians are interested in hearing from Abdullah tomorrow in his last official opening of the MCA General Assembly as Barisan Nasional Chairman is how he proposes to fend off mounting pressures in UMNO for his earlier exit as Prime Minister than next March and how he can definitely ensure that he could salvage and implement his minimal reform programme before he steps down as Prime Minister.

Surely the question as to when the Prime Minister should retire from office should not be sole prerogative of Umno, with all the other Barisan Nasional component parties completely excluded from the decision-making process – as Abdullah is the Barisan Nasional Prime Minister and not just Umno Prime Minister!

It is most regrettable that no single MCA leader, regardless whether incumbents or contestants for high MCA office – and this goes for all the other Barisan Nasional component parties whether Gerakan, MIC or SUPP - had dared to say a single word on the issue of the tenure and appointment of a Prime Minister as well as how they could provide support to Abdullah to ensure that his final minimal reform programme could be salvaged and implemented before Najib takes over as the sixth Prime Minister.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor