Keep Your Friends Close

And your enemies closer. This was the first thing that jumped to my mind ever since former Malaysian Prime Minister rejoined UMNO. The former PM quit the party last year as a political gambit after years of bitterness with his hand-picked protege Abdullah Badawi who became premier in 2003. Both did not see eye-to-eye politically on Malaysia’s direction, and retired, cut-off Mahathir was ever on the sidelines undermining Abdullah. Abdullahism was in stark contrast to Mahathirism. Under the former’s rule, Malaysia enjoyed more political liberalisation in a way that backfired on Abdullah – Anwar Ibrahim was released and Malaysia’s internet activism expanded despite the occasional crackdown. The irony of Anwar’s release and wrath was significant. It was Mahathir who put the former DPM in jail and it was Abdullah who released Anwar. However, Anwar could only lash out at Abdullah. Anyway, Mahathir would not have been so tolerant as Abdullah. March 2008 was the beginning of the end of Abdullah’s term when Barisan Nasional lost Perak, Penang, Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan.

Najib Razak, Malaysia’s 6th PM, released 13 ISA detainees as a populist measure and down payment for his supposed goodwill and promise of reforms. Malaysian pundits are watching this move cynically as should any political pundits. From rumours of being implicated in the sensational murder of a Mongolian woman, Najib Razak is not a simple man and neither are his enemies, current and future. The former PM Mahathir is back in UMNO supposedly to strengthen the party weakened during the Abdullah years. Najib saw what trouble Mahathir was during Abdullah’s reign and is keeping a watchful eye on the former PM. The latest Malaysian PM wants everybody to start on the same side when BN tackles the by-elections ahead.

April 5, 2009
Mahathir rejoins UMNO

PUTRAJAYA – FORMER Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad rejoined Umno on Saturday, a year after quitting in a huff over the way his successor was running the government.

He returned to the party a day after Datuk Seri Najib Razak took over from Tun Abdullah Badawi as the new Prime Minister.

On Saturday, Tun Mahathir handed his application form along with the requisite RM2 (80 Singapore cents) membership fee to Mr Najib, the party president. Dr Mahathir’s wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, and their son Datuk Mokhzani followed suit.

The former premier told reporters he was happy to be back and urged those who had left along with him to return as well. ‘The image of Umno has suffered somewhat in the last few years. The first thing to be done is to clean up the image of Umno,’ he said. ‘I am prepared to help Umno regain the people’s trust.’

The first test would take place tomorrow, when he goes out to help canvass for votes for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in two by-elections – in Perak and Kedah – on Tuesday.

‘I believe his return will be an encouragement to Umno and will help us to rebuild the party,’ Mr Najib said of Dr Mahathir.

The latter resigned as prime minister in 2003 after 22 years in power, hand-picking Mr Abdullah as his successor.

But within a year, he turned against Mr Abdullah after the new leader overturned many of his pet projects. ‘Although I was out of Umno, my heart and soul were in Umno,’ Dr Mahathir said.

He added there was no need for any formal party or government positions for him and that the criticisms he had hurled at the party were intended to strengthen it, not destroy it.

Asked whether he would continue to be just as vocal during Mr Najib’s administration, he said : ‘I was critical whenever Umno went wrong.’ — REUTERS, BERNAMA, AFP


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