JULY 6, 2002 SAT

Abdullah will choose his No 2, says Mahathir

His comment appears to address rumblings on the ground over his earlier hint that Najib will be the No. 2


PRIME Minister Mahathir Mohamad, addressing rumblings on the ground over the choice of the number two, said yesterday it was up to his appointed successor, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, to name his Cabinet when the latter takes over the helm of the country.
Answering a question on the minds of many people, Dr Mahathir said party tradition allows a new prime minister to choose his team, including the new deputy premier.
Speaking to reporters in his Kubang Pasu constituency in Kedah, he said he had 'no objections' if Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak was appointed the deputy prime minister.
Dr Mahathir, who retires in October next year, was earlier mobbed by thousands of people on his first return to his constituency following his shock announcement that he was stepping down.
Answering a question on whether Datuk Seri Najib would be the new deputy prime minister, Dr Mahathir said: 'It is up to Pak Lah to form his government, choose his Cabinet.'
Datuk Seri Abdullah is affectionately known as Pak Lah in Malaysia.
'On the party's deputy president, it will be decided by the party but whoever is chosen by Pak Lah as deputy prime minister, normally will carry the post of deputy president of Umno.
'That is what happened to me and I am sure it is a good practice. And I was just hinting that Datuk Seri Najib could be the deputy when I retire. But this is up to Datuk Seri Abdullah as prime minister to choose who will be his deputy.'
There is speculation about who would be the new deputy prime minister now that the issue of Dr Mahathir's successor has been settled with the appointment of Datuk Seri Abullah.
Past Umno deputy presidents, when they move up to head the party, have always chosen their deputies from one of the three vice-presidents.
Dr Mahathir himself was one of the three Umno vice-presidents when he was elevated to become deputy premier by the then new Prime Minister Hussein Onn.
Apart from Datuk Seri Najib, the other two Umno vice-presidents are Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and former Selangor Menteri Besar Muhammad Muhammad Taib.
The Prime Minister raised eyebrows when, in thanking Umno for its support on Tuesday, indicated that Datuk Seri Najib could be the new second-in-command in the government after Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi takes over.
Asked whether he was endorsing the elevation of Datuk Seri Najib, whose father was Malaysia's second prime minister, to the number two post, Dr Mahathir said: 'Let's say, I have no objections.'
But he added that whoever is going to be chosen as deputy prime minister, the vice-presidents have agreed not to campaign openly or secretly 'to pull down each other'.
On Thursday, Datuk Seri Najib said he was surprised by Dr Mahathir's comments.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir said he did not know whether he would lead Barisan Nasional into the general election, which must be held by end-2004. But he promised to work just as hard even if he was not leading it.
In his two public speeches in Kedah yesterday, the Premier did a little campaigning ahead of a key by-election in the state following the death of Parti Islam SeMalaysia president Fadzil Noor.
He later flew to Chiang Mai for a three-day official visit to Thailand.


July 03 , 2002

My Successors' Willingness To Wait A Good Sign, Says Mahathir

PUTRAJAYA, July 3 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday the willingness by his successors to wait for 16 months before taking over Malaysia's leadership is a good sign for the country's political stability.
He said he had to give in to calls, from those who would succeed him, to continue serving for that period although he wanted to retire earlier.
"Actually if I'm no longer prime minister, Pak Lah (Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi) will be the prime minister today and perhaps Najib (Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak) will be deputy prime minister, but they are willing to wait for another 16 months to get the posts," he said.
Dr Mahathir, who is Umno president, was speaking at a meeting with the Kubang Pasu Umno division committee members at his office here.
The prime minister, who is also the Kubang Pasu division chief, said the situation was different sometime back when there was a leader who wanted to seize power from him by toppling him from the prime minister's post.
Faced with such situation, he said, he did not want to give up his post and indeed fought back to retain it.
He said he had now made the decision to retire for the sole reason that he had been the prime minister for 21 years and he felt that was too long.
"Nobody pressured me, there's no feelings of disappointment," he said.
The prime minister said he did not wish to retire in 1999 because then there were people who hated him.
"I tried to restore, not my image but the party's image, so that Umno is back as the leading party supported by the people," he said.
Dr Mahathir said although he would be giving up all posts in the party and government, he would continue to lead the Kubang Pasu Umno division as wished for by the division's leaders.
He said he would carry on serving the party after his retirement by going around the country to keep the Umno spirit alive among the Malays.
The prime minister said he wished to see the Malays being independent and no longer having to depend on "crutches".
He also hoped that his successors would continue with efforts to safeguard Malaysia's integrity.
"In this struggle, nothing is better than people respecting us," he said.
To a request by Kubang Pasu Umno deputy chief Tan Sri Osman Aroff in his speech earlier for Dr Mahathir to defend his Kubang Pasu parliamentary seat in the coming election, Dr Mahathir said he would think about it later.
About 100 leaders from the Kubang Pasu division, including from the Youth, Wanita and Puteri wings, attended the meeting. --BERNAMA