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Dr M: Pak Lah not my 1st choice for PM
By V.P.Sujata (From The Star Online of June 07, 2006)
PUTRAJAYA: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad levelled his harshest criticism yet against Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, saying the Prime Minister had dismantled many of his initiatives and betrayed his trust.
The former Prime Minister, who retired in 2003, said Abdullah had not been his first choice as successor but second after the current Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Dr Mahathir said he was hurt by allegations that he “finished all government money and the Government was bankrupt” because of mega-infrastructure projects that marked his 22 years in power.
Dr Mahathir said Najib received the highest votes but he decided to choose Abdullah anyway, adding that Najib had obtained more votes. However, Dr Mahathir did not elaborate what he meant.
He said this in a press conference, with local and foreign journalists, which lasted more than an hour, at the Perdana Leadership Foundation yesterday. The media was invited there to cover a briefing on the upcoming Perdana Global Peace Forum to be held in Kuala Lumpur later this month.
The former Prime Minister said the Government was “out of my control”, adding that he did not know if things would be any different if he had picked someone else as successor.
“I expect a reasonable degree of gratefulness but instead I was told that I have indulged in mega projects and finishing the country’s money,” he said, adding that he had many mistakes in his life such as helping many people only to have them stab him in the back.
Asked if Abdullah had stabbed him in the back, Dr Mahathir replied: “Minor bruises.” “I have the habit of choosing the wrong people perhaps. But the present Government can still do a good job; the means are there.
“But if they come under the influence of people with other agenda, it cannot be helped,” he said, but when asked who were the influential people with other agenda, he declined to reveal, stating that the media would already know about it.
Dr Mahathir said he was not interfering with the Government of the day, saying it was not his plan when he decided to step down as Prime Minister.
“When I decided to step down, I planned not to interfere with the Government of the day. “There were certain things that were promised by the incoming Government but it not only did not do things as promised but reversed many decisions made (by the former Government) when he (Abdullah) was still in the Government.
“I thought this would be carried out during his period in power but new things cropped up and promises were not kept,” he said, adding that he (Dr Mahathir) had not broken any promises after making public his undertakings.
Dr Mahathir said he was not campaigning within Umno to unseat Abdullah as “I am not capable of doing that” and “I cannot have him removed.”
“I am not going campaigning to people (but) I would be failing in my duty as an ordinary citizen, as an ex-PM, if I did not direct my attention to issues affecting national interests.
“I cannot remove the present leadership, I will support the Prime Minister, but I will voice out my opinion if I see something wrong,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said he would continue to stick his neck out to be chopped by opposing decisions made by the Government as he had done in the past. Asked to comment on PAS’ suggestion that he be an Opposition Leader, Dr Mahathir said he did not want to have anything to do with PAS as he believed it was not an Islamic party but a deviationist.
“What PAS proposed to do is not practical in the country. Of course, they think they can make use of me, I will not be made use of by anyone.
“Even when I was thrown out of Umno, I was not disloyal. I never wanted to have anything to do with the Opposition, not for emotional reasons, but simply because I don't think they have anything to offer the country,” he said.
He also said he would not be forming another party and that he was happy being a retired man.
On being Proton advisor, Dr Mahathir said he valued the appointment and that he would not quit but added that he could be removed if the Government felt he was an obstruction or nuisance.