KUALA LUMPU,— Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad may have started a new party to champion Malay rights, but it appears he still has very strong feelings for the first — Umno.
After claiming today’s Umno to be beset with factionalism and no clear stewardship under its incumbent president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Dr Mahathir blamed its previous head Datuk Seri Najib Razak for wrecking the Malay party he once led.
“I cannot forgive someone who destroyed my party,” he said in an interview with news website Malaysia Gazette on its Owh! MG programme aired on Facebook last night.
Both men were once seen as Dr Mahathir’s proteges and whom the former Umno president and two-time prime minister had banked on to lead Umno and Malaysia into glory, but with whom he eventually grew estranged.
Dr Mahathir told Malaysia Gazette that there was a difference between Najib and Anwar, but did not delve into the details.
In the 30-minute long interview, Dr Mahathir recalled urging his successor Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to make Najib deputy prime minister as well as being glad when Najib eventually became the sixth prime minister.
However, Dr Mahathir said his expectations were dashed by persistent rumours of Najib’s purportedly poor leadership of the party and of the government and that the latter was easily swayed by his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor in public decisions.
Dr Mahathir said that Najib’s defence of Rosmah and leadership styled on the “cash is king” maxim was what led to the 1Malaysia Development financial scandal that destroyed Umno.
“I will never ever forgive someone who destroyed Umno,” the Langkawi MP said emphatically.
Today’s Umno was actually started by Dr Mahathir in February 1988 under the Malay name Pertubuhan Kebangsaan Melayu Bersatu, or Umno Baru after the United Malay National Organisation was deregistered in a high-profile political and legal court tussle. The “Baru” eventually was discarded and the party reverted to its English acronym.
The majority of today’s Malay parties have their roots in Umno, including Islamist PAS which broke off from the original Umno; Anwar’s PKR; Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) which Dr Mahathir co-founded with current Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in 2016; and Dr Mahathir’s latest, Pejuang following his expulsion from Bersatu in March.
Dr Mahathir has consistently insisted on the necessity of a Malay-centric party to protect Malay interests, even when he came under fire from the same community which portrayed him as a sell-out for joining the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Opposition coalition after leaving Umno to form Bersatu.
In the interview, Dr Mahathir emphasised that he only worked with the Opposition parties in the 2018 general election so that they could win and form a new government.
He said his PH Cabinet was dominated by Malay members, contrary to the depiction projected by his critics that he was being made a tool by the non-Malay parties, namely the DAP, although he never referred to it by name.