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Abdullah Badawi sits firm as Malaysia’s leader

Updated On: Jul 21, 2006

After a long silence, the Malaysian PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has finally spoken up on the tension between him and former PM Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

In his usual quiet, unassuming way, which contrasted with Mahathir’s combativeness and vindictiveness, Abdullah admitted to feeling hurt by Mahathir’s barbs at the time. But he also emphasized that he bore no grudges and would greet Mahathir if the two happened to meet.

To underscore his point, Abdullah said that during a recent trip to Tokyo, he took the initiative to meet Mahathir after learning that the latter was also staying in the same hotel. “I did not ask him to come and see me. I went to meet him. As a gesture of friendship, just to exchange greetings," Abdullah said. As to whether he was reneging on old promises to Mahathir-sanctioned projects, Abdullah maintained that the government would continue with the aforesaid policies. However, policies needed to be adjusted as situations changed, for instance the rise in oil prices and sugar scarcity. The main agenda for the government is to bring “unity, progress and stability” in line with the interests of electorate and secure a good mandate in the next elections, the New Straits Times reported.

In answer to Mahathir’s wish that the government make good the wrong policies, Abdullah firmly stated, “What is wrong, we will put it right. The Government has its own perception. The Government has information… The perspective of the Government cannot be the same as that of an individual because we look at things from a wide angle and in totality… We make the best decision based on the situation at that time.”

In asserting his leadership, Abdullah is adamant to carry out his duties without interference. One of these is the decision to rescind the “controversial guidebook used by Universiti Putra Malaysia to foster closer ethnic relations among students”, the Star reported. Abdullah was against the discriminatory nature of the book apportioning blame on various racial and political groups for the racial riots of the 1960s, saying, “The facts of history can never be changed... There is no need for us to hurl accusations at other races.”  He is also embarking on a tour of the nation to speak about government programmes, especially the 9th Malaysia Plan (9MP). Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin said, “It is also to develop the people’s confidence and support and to explain the issues that crop up suddenly and which may confuse the masses.”

While Abdullah is keen to let the matters rest and focus on the daily business of running the country, former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar, has joined in the fray, in a shrewd move to stage a comeback.  He accused Mahathir of mismanaging the country, but at the same time, opined that Mahathir should be allowed to criticize the current administration. 

Political intrigue looks set to deepen in Malaysia as different forces and factions manoeuvre for power, consolidate their positions and ready themselves for any exigencies that may appear in the horizon.

Sources:

Pak Lah breaks silence (The Star, 20 July 2006)

Controversial ethnic relations guidebook withdrawn (New Straits Times, 20 July 2006)

PM to tour nation to explain 9MP and other issues (The Star/Bernama, 19 July 2006)

No ill-feeling towards Dr M, says Abdullah (New Straits Times, 20 July 2006)

PM - Anwar Ibrahim a possible candidate for UN Secretary-General (ABC Online, 20 July 2006)

Anwar Says Malaysian Premier Abdullah Should Answer Criticism (Bloomberg, 7 July 2006)

Mahathir has mismanaged country: Anwar (The Straits Times, 21 July 2006)