KUALA LUMPUR: Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today (June 27, 2006) described Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz as a "hatchet man", saying a momentum is being created to demonise and expel him from Umno.
"Nazri is what they call the hatchet man. I don't care at all for his opinion," he said, after a dialogue session in the Malaysian Institute of Management Global Exchange Forum themed "A Leader's Imperative: Managing Global Challenges."
He said the momentum is building up in the newspapers, with them publishing pictures of him with opposition leaders.
On the accusation by Nazri that he is now on the same platform as his detractors, Mahathir said the function attended by him on Saturday (June 24, 2006) in Taman Melawati was organised by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), not by him.
"Everyone was there. Many people shook hands with me and I smiled. If people come and shake hands with me, what can I do? I gave a talk organised by NGOs and PAS came. I did not organise the talk. I went there and they (PAS) were there ... so be it."
Mahathir also reminded Nazri that Umno does not belong to him.
"It belongs to all Malays and he has no right to say who should be in or out. Before he was born ... I was already in Umno."
He said if he is still popular among the rank and file, it will be difficult to remove him, but it would be easier if he is first demonised.
When told his comments had created disunity, he said he did not think so, adding many people had been asking him, if anything can be done for what is happening in the country.
"Nobody wants to take the risk to talk ... if you take the risk, you will be punished."
He said among those people who are "feeling the pinch" are ministers and mentris besar who want to be in the good books.
"I have nothing to gain. I am retired and have no more ambition. But when people appeal to me and also because when I see wrong things being done, I feel it is my duty. Nobody wants to stick their neck out, so l did just like during Tunku's time."
In another function, Deputy Prime Minister and Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak said the party has no plans to sack Mahathir from the party for criticising the government and no such decisions were made.
"The only position the party has taken is to explain to the people on some of the allegations made in a very correct manner.
"We don't only have to address Tun Dr Mahathir, but also the wider population ... and the people must be convinced that we have taken right decisions," he said, after opening a two-day World Security Forum with the theme "Managing Security: The Changing Mindset" in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre here.
He was asked to comment on Nazri statement that Mahathir should leave Umno for criticising the government and sharing a platform with the opposition party.
On Nazri's outburst, he said " Everybody is entitled to their own opinion."
Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin said he had appealed to Mahathir to stop interfering in the government of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as he could hurt himself that way.
Zainuddin said he told Mahathir: "The more statements you make, and the more you interfere in politics and administration of the country, the more you will hurt yourself and erode the name and reputation you have built over the years."
He met Mahathir at the Japan GT at the Sepang F1 Circuit over the weekend.
Speaking to reporters after launching the Non-Aligned Movement News Network (NNN), Zainuddin said: "I spoke to him as a leader whom I have always respected, but I think he has already made up his mind.
"Mahathir is a strong minded person by nature and he believes what he is doing is right. Whatever it is, I believe in what Pak Lah is doing and they are both my friends, but they both have their own ways and this is normal in politics."
He said there is a saying that in politics, "you will have no permanent friends or enemies, and that is a very practical statement in this matter".
In PORT DICKSON, Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin described as "slightly overboard" Mahathir's criticism of the government at a recent dialogue in Taman Melawati, Kuala Lumpur.
He likened the move to washing dirty linen in public and said it could cause anxiety and discontent among members of Umno if allowed to continue.
Muhyiddin, who is Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister, said: "The people and Umno members have begun to ask where Tun (Dr Mahathir) is headed ... whether he can stop (what he is doing) or will carry on."
"What will happen to the party and country if this action prolongs and becomes a surge and ripples that can develop into problems for the country?"