After years of “elegant silence”, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is now firing back at his number one critic and former boss Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, accusing his predecessor of leading the “unwarranted attacks” that led to his eventual ouster.
Although handpicked by Dr Mahathir to be his successor, Abdullah later came under relentless attack from the nation’s longest-serving prime minister and ultimately was forced to relinquish his presidency of Umno and position as prime minister to Datuk Seri Najib Razak in April 2009, after leading Barisan Nasional (BN) to its then-worst electoral showing in Election 2008.
“I didn’t like what Mahathir did. I gave Mahathir the opportunity to give me his views. I went to see him but he chose to be public in his attacks against me and my administration,” read an excerpt of his book Awakening reproduced by Malaysiakini today.
“Mahathir cannot deny that he contributed to the erosion of BN’s support in the 2008 general election through his open and unwarranted criticism and attacks.
“Calling my administration, which included a majority of people from his own Cabinet, as a ‘half-past-six government’ and accusing us of corruption and all kind of things,” Abdullah continued,
According to the 73-year-old fondly called “Pak Lah”, the “core issue” was with Dr Mahathir’s inability to accept any vision of the country beyond what he had mapped out before his retirement.
“Mahathir is set in his ways. And he believes that his way is the only way. When I tried to do things differently, he believed that I was doing things wrongly. But that is Mahathir,” read another excerpt.
Pak Lah : Singles out Dr Mahathir’s remark on ‘half-past-six government’. — Reuters file picThe previously cordial relationship between the two turned sour when, after coming to power, Abdullah discontinued the double-tracking rail megaproject approved during Dr Mahathir’s time, citing the country’s weak finances.
Dr Mahathir had then taken the cancellation, as well as that of the controversial “Crooked Bridge” to Singapore, as personal affront, saying these insinuated he had mismanaged the country’s finances.
In his book, Abdullah revisits the double-tracking project, among others, insisting the country would have succumbed to the 2008 banking crisis had he not cancelled the projects when he did.
“Can you imagine if I had succumbed to Mahathir’s continued pressure to spend when the deficit was already so high, how would Malaysia have weathered the oil and financial crisis which subsequently came up in 2008?
“If we had not been prudent then, and continued to spend, I can tell you we would be bankrupt by now,” he said in an interview, which was published in the book that is slated to be launched later this month.
The new remarks are unlikely to improve relations between the two former prime ministers, which have remained chilly despite the years since Abdullah made way for Najib.
In an earlier excerpt, Abdullah lashed out at Dr Mahathir for accusing him of sleeping on the job although Dr Mahathir was aware that Pak Lah’s bouts of public napping were due to a now-corrected disorder of sleep apnoea.
“He knew the problem and yet he chose to say all these things.”
Awakening, jointly edited by political analysts Bridget Welsh and James Chin, is due to be launched by Pak Lah later this month.
Abdullah was prime minister from 2003 until 2009 after serving as Dr Mahathir’s deputy starting in 1999.
He was the member of parliament for Kepala Batas from 1978 until Election 2013, when he made way for current MP Datuk Reezal Merican Naina Merican.
He is also the father-in-law of Youth and Sports Minister and Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin. (TheMalayMail)