Tuesday October 24, 2006
Media Player| Real Video
Media Player| Real Video
Media Player| Real Video
Media Player| Real Video
THE following is the transcript of what former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said at the press conference held at his house in the Mines Resort City, just outside of Kuala Lumpur on Monday – a day after his meeting with the present Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Dr Mahathir: First, I’d like to give the background to all these things because I think many people are unaware or confused about the reason why I met Pak Lah.
Actually, Mubarak (the organisation of ex-members of parliament and state assemblymen) approached Mokhzani, my son, to try and help resolve this problem – the problem being my criticism of the Government.
They suggested three things: that I should meet the Umno supreme council; if that cannot be done, I should meet the Malay members of the Cabinet; and if that too is not possible, for me to see Pak Lah.
Zani, I don’t know what he did, but he said Pak Lah agreed to see me. So that was that and I was informed that I should meet Pak Lah.
Since this was initiated by Mubarak, I said I would like to see Mubarak first to find out what it is that they are asking me to do.
Mubarak came, five of them including their president, and Tan Sri Zaleha (former National Unity and Social Development Minister Zaleha Ismail) and they said they would like me to see Pak Lah because Pak Lah has agreed to see me.
I said if I wanted to see Pak Lah, I would like to tell him very bluntly: What have I to gain by criticising him? I told Mubarak what I felt about things and after Mubarak listened to me, they felt that I should tell these things directly to Pak Lah.
I said if I am free to speak frankly then I would see him.
After that, I believe Mubarak went to see Pak Lah and Pak Lah agreed to see me, and a date, time and place was to be fixed by him.
I had requested that there should be one person as witness for each of us but the agreement was that there would be nobody at all and I said that was fine.
Yesterday, the time was fixed at 3pm. Pak Lah met me at the door with his son Kamal. I went to the office, it used to be an office when I was living there anyway. I told him that I will record our dialogue.
I set up the recorder on the table and told him I would like to start and of course told him about all the things that I was critical about the Government. Of course, there were too many things I had to mention but in one and a half hours I covered a whole lot of things.
After that he explained, because he interrupted me several times when I was talking. For example, when I said it’s not true that the Government has no money for projects because before I stepped down in 2002, I made sure of a few things.
That the country is stable, Umno regains its popularity and the economy is doing well.
That the finances of the Government is in good shape. Only after that did I decide to step down.
But I said there’s no question that when I stepped down the Government had no money. He said that the Government now has more money, implying that when I stepped down there was no money.
During my time the profit made by Petronas was RM26bil.
I know that subsequently Petronas made RM58bil and the last financial year Petronas made RM86bil, which is bigger than the total collection from income and corporate taxes, which will be around RM60bil this year.
So the Government has money, which he agrees now. But he didn’t say that at the time I stepped down there was no money.
But I insisted that there was. He also said that when I said his son and son-in-law telephone people to give contracts to so and so, he said that while he did not know he will ask them but he didn’t think they did it.
On Scomi, he said that it is the only company in the region with the technology and mud engineering. Besides, it is 100% bumiputra so that is why Petronas gave the contract to Scomi.
There were a few other things he mentioned but he stopped, thinking it was already two hours. I figured the meeting was over and I collected my recorder and said good bye to him at the door and I came out.
Did you ask him to step down for the good of the country?
Dr M: I didn’t.
Do you want that to happen?
Dr M: I was there to tell him what I was not happy with. I was not there to suggest what he should do and it is up to him to decide what he should do.
He did say that as a result of what I did I have become unpopular and he has become unpopular too and that the only people who benefited were (former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim and Nik Aziz (Kelantan Mentri Besar and PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat).
It is wrong what TV3 reported, saying that I agreed with him that what I had done made me and him unpopular and only Anwar Ibrahim and Nik Aziz benefited. This is what he said, not what I said.
What is your feeling on the comment that you have become unpopular?
Dr M: He said that they had done a survey before I met him. And they had given him a briefing of the survey, that shows this result. If he wants to believe, that it is his right.
I said I don’t care about being popular or not but if anybody does things that don’t benefit the country and Malays in particular, I reserve my right to criticise whenever I think necessary.
And I pointed out to him that firstly, this has become a police state. Because every time anybody invites me to give a talk, they would be called up by the police and warned, called up by the police and told to withdraw the invitation.
Someone was not allowed to hold any meeting at all which involves me. This happened to many people. They were very shy to tell me about it but they were called up by the police and of course they were also called up by the mentri besar as well.
I did not tell him about this so I don’t think it is right for me to tell you what was said.
But I consider this a police state. And I consider also that my civic right has been taken away from me because I have every right to talk to Umno people, university people, civil servants and that’s my right.
But every time I want to do this and if people invite me they were told to withdraw. I told him more than 10 invitations had been withdrawn.
And of course in some cases police would meet these people. Umno people were told not to invite me. I know many Umno divisions want to invite me but are not allowed to.
So I am not allowed to speak to many groups of people. I consider it my right to speak to Umno people as a member and as ex-president. I have a right to speak to Umno people.
Did you talk about your agreement with him that was made before you step down?
Dr M: No, we did not.
What was Pak Lah’s reply to what you said on this being a police state?
Dr M: He said it was not true. He doesn’t agree with me that this is a police state.
Do you think the Prime Minister is going to do anything differently?
Dr M: We will have to wait and see. But my criticisms had some effect. For example, the activities of ECM Libra. At first you read reports in newspapers that ECM was doing these things but now it seems there is a complete blackout of ECM Libra activities.
There is no more report on Scomi activities.
Do you still plan to attend the Umno general meeting and to speak?
Dr M: I have not decided. But I have not been given any slot to speak so I don’t know how I am going to speak.
You’ve expressed unhappiness with Abdullah’s leadership. Do you think your unhappiness is being respected in Umno?
Dr M: I am not allowed to talk to Umno people at all. I have no means to assess this thing because I am not allowed to talk to Umno people. So I won’t be able to assess.
If I talk to them and explain to them what it is I am criticising then they will have to give their opinion. But I’m not allowed to explain anything, and I believe lots of people do not understand.
Did you talk about the incident at the Kubang Pasu division meeting?
Dr M: Yes, I said it was due to corruption. Whatever may be the finding of the committee I know for a fact that money was given.
Five people have reported. But there were others who said they received money but were not willing to come forward.
You are the founder of modern Malaysia. Are you concerned that your legacy is being chipped away by the controversy?
Dr M: It is not being chipped away by the controversy. It is being chipped away by the actions of the Government. For the past three years there has been no move.
The economy has not been doing well. People have not been able to have jobs and unemployment is still high.
Nothing has been done really to improve the economy. Although of course we read of very good figures but we see retail business is not good, contracts are not easy to come by, Class F people have no jobs and many contractors have folded.
Did you give him an ultimatum, because the last time you said he should undo what he has done wrong?
Dr M: I didn’t say that. I didn’t say that. I went there just to tell him. I didn’t give him any ultimatum. Because Murabak wants me to tell, that’s all.
Did he say anything about the incident in Kubang Pasu?
Dr M: He didn’t.
Why did you raise Ku Li’s name as a possible successor in the Bloomberg interview?
Dr M: No, I didn’t raise Tengku Razaleigh’s (former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah) name. They were asking whether there are other candidates who might want to, well, I thought Tengku Razaleigh was interested the last time and he might still be interested.
I mean, any Umno member can contest.
I did mention that the postponement of the Umno election is wrong. The excuse that I too did that when I was Umno president is not quite correct.
I did it because the general election was coming the following year and therefore I had to postpone the party elections the year before the general election.
But here, the general election can be held in 2009, and it is 2006 now.
Is there any reason why the party election cannot be held? Are you giving yourself a time frame to see changes after your meeting with Pak Lah?
Dr M: Well, I don’t talk about time frames. But if I am scheduled to meet people, if I am allowed to meet people, I will talk. I will mention why certain things are wrong.
Just like what I am telling you.
What do you want to achieve? You didn’t ask the Prime Minister to step down and you didn’t set a time frame.
Dr M: The Government has been criticised before and a government which is sensitive would take into consideration the criticism.
It may take the form of resignation, it may take other forms like stopping all these wrong things, the things that got people criticising.
From your point of view, what is the state of the economy?
Dr M: The economy is bad. I know because a lot of Chinese business people are very unhappy. Some of them, and I told this to
Pak Lah, some of them have said they will not vote for Barisan Nasional at the next elections. And some of them said today they prefer to go to China to do business because there are more opportunities in China than there is in Malaysia because they don’t fine it easy to do business in Malaysia.
Are you convinced or satisfied at all by any of Pak Lah’s responses?
Dr M: At the moment no.
Dr M: Because he said he didn’t think his children were involved. He said that Khairy (Jamaluddin) was his son-in-law and he has been working with him before he became his son-in-law.
And he says he will ask them, that’s all.
Does that mean that from Pak Lah’s responses and reactions to what you had to tell him, your assessment is that you have not actually achieved much in this meeting?
Dr M: I have achieved the objective of telling him in quite substantial detail. I am quite sure that the reports that are in the controlled press, the spin from people like (News Straits Time group editor) Brendan Pereira and (NSTP deputy chairman Datuk) Kalimullah (Hassan) and all that would have given him a completely wrong impression of what I have done.
Now I have the opportunity to tell him as it is, no Brendan in between, no Kalimullah in between.
So to that extent I am satisfied, no “spinning” that things were not going like that. (Makes spinning motion with finger.)
Do you wish that you had never stepped down?
Dr M: I wish I had stepped down in 1998, if it had been possible. I could have stepped down in 2002 but I was asked to … he did tell me that he willingly asked me to stay on for another year, which is something I appreciate. But this is not a question of what you do or a character thing.
This is not about his or my character. This is about what is happening. I must admit that what is happening is something I never suspected at all or expected. I didn’t expect any family involvement.
I pointed out to him that it is wrong to have family involvement.
I also spoke about this oil-for-food thing, which is wrong. It was during the time when he was deputy prime minister and there was his name in this list published by the UN that he was involved in oil-for-food.
Although they say that him being a beneficiary, he did not gain anything. But that is the oil-for-food report from the US.
But as you know the US excluded all the American companies involved in oil-for-food so the US publication contains elements of cover-up.
But I don’t know whether the US is covering up or not in this particular case.
But he admitted that he wrote a recommendation for this chap Taufik or whatever it is, who happens to be a distant relative of his, married to his sister-in-law.
And when he did that of course he was the deputy prime minister.
When the company was formed, Trade or something or rather, he was deputy prime minister.
As deputy prime minister or as a minister, you should never get involved in the formation of any company or running of any company.
So when you met Pak Lah, to back up your statements did you show him any documents that you have?
Dr M: No documents.
So by raising this issue about his son-in-law and his involvement in oil-for-food, are you accusing the Prime Minister of corruption?
Dr M: Well, it is up to the public to assess. It is up to the legal people to decide on this but as far as I am concerned, it is wrong that a serving deputy prime minister should get his name listed among the companies in the oil-for-food trade with Iraq.
But Pak Lah never denied he recommended two or three companies that is related to him.
Dr M: As far as I am concerned, if you are in the Government you should not form any company in which you are listed as beneficiary. You should not write letters of recommendation for your own relative.
You can write letters of recommendation in a very general way or for some other company.
So will you support Najib as Umno president?
Dr M: That is hypothetical.
Do you think he will make it as Prime Minister?
Dr M: That is up to them to decide, not for me to decide, not for me to say I support or don’t. It’s entirely dependent upon Umno.
But I must admit that I had appointed Najib deputy prime minister and in the course of time, according to tradition, the deputy prime minister should succeed the prime minister.
When do you think the PM should call for the general election?
Dr M: The general election can be held anytime up to 2009, when the life span of the present Parliament terminates, so it is up to him to decide.
When do you like to see it?
Dr M: I don’t care what I like (sic).
What’s next for you after this?
Dr M: I told him I will continue to make criticisms and I will continue in my usual way.
But I do hope the habit of asking the police to frighten people should stop and my civic rights should be restored.
That I have rights to speak to Umno, the right to speak to any audience that I like.
You said the Chinese would vote for the Opposition, aren’t you afraid that the Opposition will have a bigger majority?
Dr M: Yes, I think it is possible. My assessment is that it is not possible for the Opposition to win but they may be able to reduce the majority of the Government.
Don’t you think what you are doing now is bad for the party?
Dr M: I see that what he is doing now is bad for the party and unless you criticise and stop what he is doing now, it will have bad results for the country.
It is not an internal problem of Umno alone. It’s not a question of unity within Umno.
Umno cannot win the elections without public support and today the public is very critical of the present conditions, the present economy, the present system of administration, the involvement of family members, the telephone calls, the contracts won by the children’s company.
This concerns the public and if the public doesn’t support, even if 100% of Umno were to support our candidates, they will still lose.
What is your assessment of the Prime Minister’s personal integrity. Is he an honest man?
Dr M: Well, I don’t know. But how does he get involved in the oil-for-food business?.
He says no, he is not involved but his name is there as the beneficiary.
But didn’t you know that when you were the Prime Minister?
Dr M: I didn’t know about it when I was PM.
The first time I heard about it was when it was published by the (New) Straits Times that his name appeared there. Subsequently Najib said: “Don’t talk anymore about it.”
And of course there were no more reports about this affair in the Straits Times or any other newspaper.
Recently in the course of writing my memoir, I tried to get hold of the copy of the Straits Times which reported this thing but it seems to have disappeared.
The Berita Harian was there but the copy of the Straits Times has disappeared. Maybe somebody has a copy, can lend it to me.
You said you touched on approved permits (APs) and Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz?
Dr M: Yes, I said the AP thing, I told the story already from the beginning, why it was issued.
I said it was wrong to give to two friends of Rafidah and this constitutes abuse of authority by the minister. And I am surprised the minister is still retained in the Cabinet.
On Proton, I said: “You have destroyed Proton.” When Mahaleel (former Proton CEO Tengku Mahaleel Tengku Ariff) was there, the share price was about RM8.60.
Today the share price is about RM4.60 or something like that, you know RM5.
And Proton is losing money. Only a few years back Proton made RM1.5bil profit, now it is losing money and this is due entirely to the change, the removal of Mahaleel and the appointment of a man acting as its non-executive chairman but who is actually doing the work of the executive chairman.
Of the RM2bil reserve that Mahaleel left, how much is left?
Dr M: I would like to know. I want to know. I wonder …
The market says the reserve is down to zero and now they are talking about borrowing. Is this true?
Dr M: The market may know something. I cannot say something which I have no knowledge of.
Are you unhappy with Najib for not saying much?
Dr M: Whether I am happy or not, whatever happens to him is something that will happen to him, not to me.
What do you mean?
Dr M: Whatever he does of course will affect his future.
But he is somebody whom you had lobbied for.
Dr M: Yes I did, but beyond that I am not prepared to do anything more.
By what you said about retaining Rafidah, Proton, the AP and all that, you are practically telling the PM how to run the country?
Dr M: Why not? If you are doing it the wrong way, you are destroying the economy of the country. There is no FDI coming in now.
There is no local investment also and people who want to invest in this country find great difficulty getting through.
And investors from outside, one of them at least has been given back his deposit and told that he is technically wrong or whatever.
So, the country is not doing well. If you want to believe that the country is doing well and pooh-pooh what people are saying on the ground, that is up to you.
Do you believe the economic figures given by the Government?
Dr M: Sounds a bit strange to me when I see companies going down the drain. Companies like Proton which was very profitable before is now losing money.
And I wonder, of the companies in the Khazanah stable, how many are doing well because these are companies which do not seem to inform people of their situation.
Najib recently announced RM40bil in investments by companies.
Dr M: Announce is OK. It’s like announcing the Ninth Malaysia Plan, it has been announced two years ago but up to now as far as I know none of the projects have taken off.
I did also comment (to Pak lah) on this private financing initiative. Now what is private financing initiative? It sounds as if it is the private sector which is going to do everything and the Government does not have to spend one sen.
It sounds like privatisation but it is not. It is the same as build, lease and transfer.
It means the private sector build this bridge at whatever cost and then lease it to the Government.
Of course, when you lease it to the Government it must give the company profit and sufficient money to pay off debts.
And in the end of course the Government will pay.
Your view on bumiputra equity ownership at 18% or 45%?
Dr M: I think the Government has to explain how it reached the figure of 18% and the other side has to explain how it reached the figure of 45%.
I don’t think the figure of 45% is correct.
As far as 18% is concerned, it may be nearer the actual figure than the 45% figure. So let’s clear this up. Don’t say: “Don’t question this thing.”
To every criticism directed at the Government, the answer is: “Don’t question this thing, don’t raise this issue, stop talking about this.”
Have you anything good to say about the Government? Has the Government done anything good?
Dr M: (Scoff) The Government has still maintained that we are still an independent country although foreign policy-wise we are less highly regarded than before especially by developing countries and Muslim countries.
Abroad they are asking what’s happened to Malaysia. But this wanting to be friendly with Mr Bush is something other people are commenting and I can’t understand.
Are your criticisms a reflection of the rakyat’s unhappiness over Pak Lah’s administration rather than overall corruption, for example the councilors issue?
Dr M: I think the councillors are having a field day. MPs, they are … ministers are off on their own. So I don’t know what is happening.
But crime rate has gone up, there is no sufficient attention paid to drug problem, to the increased cases of rape, and all kinds of things.
The police I don’t know what they are doing, maybe they have lots of other things. Crime rate today is very high. Everyday we read not only about snatch theft but people just up and kill people.
During your time it was also evident.
Dr M: Yes it was evident but not to this extent.
You said Malaysia has become a police state. Isn’t it ironic because your critics said the same thing about your administration.
Dr M: I never stopped people from making speeches. In 1987 when Tengku Razaleigh, (a former deputy prime minister Tun) Musa Hitam and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi challenged me, Abdullah remained as Minister.
They were travelling all over the country, campaigning with Umno branches and divisions and I never stopped them.
But of course, Pak Lah now says he was stopped.
Umno branches said they heard him when he came to talk.
And I know because when I went to his area to speak, he came up on the stage and he spoke also. I never stopped him from speaking.
I never stopped Tengku Razaleigh from speaking, which is why, although I was nominated by 86 divisions and Tengku Razaleigh was nominated by 37 divisions, I barely managed to win because of the intensive campaigning carried out by Tengku Razaleigh, Musa Hitam and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
But now, I am not allowed to speak to anybody. I know I’m speaking to the Press now.
I know the New Straits Times will have to make some kind of spin about this, TV3 too will have to spin somehow, but fortunately for us that in my time, we have the Internet, so I would advise people to read the Internet and not these newspapers because they are all getting phone calls.
Now, Kalimullah is not here but there is another man on the fourth floor who does the reading.
Will you meet Pak Lah again?
Dr M: If there is a chance to meet him and if there is any use, then yes, I would meet him. If there is a problem and I only speak to him and others don’t know about it, the effect would not be there.
On Pak Lah’s relationship with US President George W. Bush, when he met Bush earlier, he did not touch on the two Malaysians detained in Guantanamo, he did not touch on the FTA, he did not touch on the American nuclear ships visiting Port Klang. What did he talk to Bush about?
Dr M: He said he agreed with Bush that the Pope did not mean what was reported.
How was Pak Lah’s body language during the meeting?
Dr M: It was good.
What is your next step?
Dr M: I know what I am going to do. After this, if I see something I should speak up about, I will do so.
If someone asks me, I have to explain, if not, I’ll be unpopular, according to his statistic.
Do you think he has changed compared to before?
Dr M: Yes, there is change. When he was deputy prime minister, his children and son-in-law were not involved. And he agreed … everything decided by the Cabinet.
He was a very good deputy. But people change when they have power.
At that time, Khairy was not yet Umno Youth deputy head, it was after I had resigned.
What I am uncomfortable with was that the wives of ministers already had Bakti (the Association of Wives of Ministers and Deputy Ministers) to do charity work.
But he agreed that his wife, as the Deputy Prime Minister’s wife, set up another body.
I think there was no need for two or three charitable bodies because one is enough to do charity work.
Because, if we have a welfare body, we have to ask money from people.
It is not nice if we ask money from people.
I didn’t say anything because he had already formed the body.
But about Khairy’s appointment, I was disappointed, because there was supposed to be someone who wanted to contest the position but he was called by Hishammuddin (Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein) and ordered not to contest.
I know that the practice of appointment without contest is something which happens in Umno but it happens when someone has long served Umno and proven their worth.
But this is someone who had just joined Umno and who has not shown any bakti (service) to Umno but won without contest.
There were messages through the telephone that everyone had to vote. And I know that even though people voted, they were not satisfied and they booed him.
But the following year, there was no more booing.
Probably some things had happened until there was no more booing Khairy.
Do you think the PM grasped all that you brought up?
Dr M: I am not in a position to say whether he grasped it or not. But what I know is that he listened to me.
I don’t know what he wrote in his notes, you see he may write something else.
But as far as I can see he wrote something in his notes.
How long more are you going to be patient?
Dr M: I will continue. Until there are some changes, until I achieve some result.
Of course I am 82 years old, people believe that if they delay long enough this interfering Nosy Parker will disappear or would not be able to speak.
Would you like to see the PM leading for a second term?
Dr M: Depends on how he performs.
Are you saying that Pak Lah is losing control?
Dr M: It’s some people opinion that he has lost control.
You said the police called up people who invited you, he said it’s not true. Why don’t you test it with an invitation for you to talk?
Dr M: I want to wait and see whether any Umno division would invite me. Before they can call me, people will come. Not the police but party people.
The mentri besar will come and give warning.
All this I know, so there is no need to deny. I also know about a telephone call from Perth, when I wanted to go to Kelantan, that was received by (Kelantan Umno liaison committee chairman Datuk Seri) Annuar Musa.
When I went to Kelantan, Mubarak’s function was cancelled. I don’t know who called from Perth.
Tengku Razaleigh told me because he was with Annuar Musa at the time, who was in the hospital.
Tengku Razaleigh said Annuar Musa said: “I will make sure he does not speak.” I don’t know what “making sure” means but what actually happened is that when I went there, I wasn’t allowed to speak.
During your time, you did not see eye-to-eye all the time with former premiers Tun Hussein Onn or Tunku Abdul Rahman. Don’t you think it seems like one big cycle going round and round?
Dr M: But when Rahman and Tun Hussein sided with Semangat 46, I never stopped them. They went around, they spoke, they criticised me but I never stopped.
But why are they stopping me from speaking, censoring me in the mainstream media? Why are they spinning stories about me, digging up something that happened during my time to prove that I was a bad PM?
I didn’t do those things. Did I dig up stories on Tunku Abdul Rahman? Can you show evidence I dug up stories about Tun Hussein committing whatever?
I’m not talking about details. I am talking about former prime ministers not seeing eye-to-eye on the running of the country (with the present prime minister).
Dr M: Yes, that was not seeing eye-to-eye but could speak. This is not seeing eye-to-eye and not allowed to speak and everybody is forbidden from hearing the former prime minister speak.
Seems like you made a terrible mistake choosing the PM?
Dr M: I make a lot of mistakes. I choose people and they all turn against me. I am very bad.
You know when people come and are nice to me, they cry and something like that to me I said ya, I think he is sincere.
Although they were stabbing me before, they come back to me, I accept them.
In the 22 years, you had no rival.
Dr M: Despite all people trying to pull me down. You know Musa tried to pull me down, he thought he was more popular and he would win but he lost.
And Tengku Razaleigh tried to pull me down and of course Anwar Ibrahim also did.
Despite all this I survived. Because this is democracy you have to allow for people to criticise you and if you have a good answer you win, if you don’t have a good answer, you lose.
Had I lost to Tengku Razaleigh, I wouldn’t have been PM for 22 years.
In democracy you need an opposition party to talk about the Government but you …
Dr M: In most countries, the main party, like the LDP or the Labour Party that you see in England, and even the American party, within the party, they are allowed to criticise the leadership.
But here, everybody must say yes, I support.
Even if yesterday they say this bridge must be built, this is our side.
Tomorrow the PM says we won’t build this bridge because Singapore might be upset, immediately the comments from people with pictures, their faces in the Straits Times with comments “We must not build this bridge, It is wrong.” You see the change is fantastic.
Would you like to form an Opposition party with like-minded people?
Dr M: No, I don’t want. I am a loyal Umno member. What I am trying to do, people might not believe it is to save Umno from bad leadership
Friday October 27, 2006
KEPALA BATAS: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is deeply grieved by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s renewed attacks against him, which the Prime Minister likened to “stronger doses of venom.”
Breaking his silence over their meeting last Sunday when Dr Mahathir spoke for two hours on what he thought was wrong with the present administration, Abdullah said he was saddened that the former premier had continued with his criticisms in the media.
“I feel sad because he has told me all that he wanted to say. I will need time to respond. But he repeated (his criticisms) with stronger doses of venom.
“What else (is there) to do? Allahualam (only God knows), he still wants to continue. I had hoped that he could wait for my explanation,” he told a press conference at his Hari Raya open house at Dewan Milenium here yesterday.
Abdullah said it upset him that people who came to his open house still talked about the issue, and many had directly asked him about it.
During Sunday’s meeting – which Abdullah described as “calm, without any exchange of harsh words” – he said he did not talk much because he wanted Dr Mahathir to say his piece.
BIG TURN-OUT: Abdullah greeting guests at his open house at Dewan Milenium in Kepala Batas on Thursday.
“I was not interested in arguing with him. He wanted to convey what was on his mind; and I gave him the opportunity to do so,” Abdullah said.
“Some of the other details I had explained in the past. So I did not want to repeat them.
“Tun himself has said before that if the Prime Minister did not want to give explanations, he could ask the ministers to do so on his behalf.
“So, I followed his advice and allowed other ministers to give the necessary explanations.”
Abdullah said there were several junctures during the meeting when he felt compelled to debate with Dr Mahathir, because he disagreed with the latter’s views.
“If I did that, it would take time. Tun would not be able to tell me everything. And that will become an issue,” he said.
He said Dr Mahathir first asked him whether the country was now a police state.
“I told him that was not true. I have no intention of turning Malaysia into a police state,” Abdullah said.
He also told Dr Mahathir that his allegation that Umno members were now afraid to voice their opinions was incorrect.
“Umno members feel happy under my leadership because they are relieved that they can talk. This democracy was created by Umno leaders themselves,” he told newsmen.
On Dr Mahathir’s claim that his movements were being restricted, Abdullah said he had not imposed any restrictions.
On the contrary, he said, Dr Mahathir might not be aware that in the days when he was Umno vice-president but was not holding a Cabinet post, people who were trying to please Dr Mahathir had restricted his movements.
“But at that time, I was an elected vice-president and held a party post. If we go by that, I could have gone anywhere,” he said.
Abdullah said he also denied claims of his son Kamaluddin’s involvement in securing a contract under the Scomi Group to make bus body parts.
On the Sultan of Johor’s statement that Dr Mahathir should behave like a “pensioner” and stop “making noise,” Abdullah said the Sultan’s view reflected the feelings of many people.
Asked if there would be another meeting with Dr Mahathir, Abdullah said: “We will see. Everything is possible, and everything is also impossible. Allahualam.”