(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
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.