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The feud between Mahathir and Abdullah – impact on UMNO solidarity and national unity

Updated On: Jun 16, 2006

Abdullah responded to Mahathir in his own style. The Malaysian PM has ordered the various government departments to prepare point-to-point answers to issues raised by Mahathir.

The Prime Minister wants to respond in his own open and transparent way and put the criticisms once and for all to rest.

The response will cater mainly to the four main points of contention: the decision of the administration to scrap plans to build a bridge to replace the Causeway, the removal of Tengku Mahaleel Ariff as the CEO of Proton, the sale of Italian motorcycle manufacturer MV Agusta by Proton to an unknown Italian company for 1 euro and the issuance of permits to import cars to well-connected individuals. The first Mahathir charge is probably the most important of all. Thus, special attention is paid to ensure that it is responded to publicly. The Malaysian Government is prepared to declassify its "secret" correspondence with Singapore in an effort to clear doubts about its dealings with the Island Republic.

The fight between the two has penetrated down to lower levels. Lawyer Matthias Chang, a former political secretary to Tun Dr Mahathir, launched an attack on the Prime Minister, various politicians and his son-in-law, Khairy.  His tirades will deepen the divide.  Political analysts are already speculating that Mahathir is attempting to engineer Abdullah's departure within his first term, which is due to expire in 2008.

Although politicians in power appear to rally behind Badawi, it now seems that the target audience for Mahathir’s shots were not UMNO powerbrokers but the Malaysian public and, to be specific, its middle-class, the discerning, media-conscious, IT-savvy section of society that is apparently fed up with fuel hikes, inflation and higher costs of living. This was demonstrated by the frustrations that the Sarawak electorate had with UMNO. In other words, bread and butter issues seem to prevail with middle Malaysia. The timing of Mahathir’s attacks are coordinated with these budding frustrations to hit the Abdullah administration.

Despite all these mud-slinging, Badawi, in his own quiet and indirect way, has emphasized and played up the popularity of his government in this spat. "Since the massive (election) victory in 2004, I had given thought, the government had given thought, what we should implement in a concrete, comprehensive and orderly manner, not ad hoc or part-time basis…which would help the national mission to achieve Vision 2020," he said. In other words, Badawi can lay claim to the mandate from the people and it is this very mandate that is fending off Mahathir attacks for now.

Sources:

Support Gives Strength To Gov't To Achieve Vision 2020 (Bernama, 14 June 2006)

Govt replies unlikely to satisfy Mahathir (Straits Times, 14 June 2006)

Mahathir loyalist blasts Abdullah's supporters (Straits Times, 14 June 2006)

KL government to give point-for-point response (Straits Times, 13 June 2006)

Malaysia To Declassify Confidential Matters (Bernama, 13 June 2006)

Abdullah Instructs States To Prepare Economic Impact Reports (Bernama, 13 June 2006)

Relevant Ministries To Reply To Dr M – Abdullah (Bernama, 13 June 2006)

Police report upsets 'cruel' Mahathir (Straits Times, 13 June 2006)

Can Umno escape its 10-year cycle of infighting? (Straits Times, 13 June 2006)

Mahathir's attack -  KL government to give point-for-point response (Straits Times, 13 June 2006)

Mahathir says not trying to topple Malaysian PM: report (Channelnewsasia, 12 June 2006)