19 May, 2008

"I am quitting Umno today"

After goading Umno members today to temporarily resign from Umno as a sign of protest against the party president, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad took up a “dare” to take the lead by resigning from the party he had been a founding member of since 1946. However, he implored Umno members taking up his challenge not to join any other party and remain independent, at least until the Umno leadership was determined (after the December party elections). He indicated that he will only rejoin the party when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi steps down as Umno president.

Mahathir Mohamad quit Malaysia’s main ruling party on Monday and urged others to follow suit in a move that could weaken its hold on power and unsettle financial markets.

The still influential Dr Mahathir, who was prime minister and leader of the United Malays National Organisation for 22 years until 2003, said he would only return to UMNO after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi quit as leader.


The 82-year-old Mahathir's departure raises the possibility of large-scale desertions by loyalists, which could split the party and bring down the government. The party has been in power since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957.

Mahathir "has asked other members of the party to follow suit" and leave the United Malays National Organization party, or UMNO, his son Mokhzani Mahathir said.

Mr Abdullah has rejected previous calls for him to step down and hand power to his deputy Najib Razak. By tradition, the UMNO president is also the prime minister.

“I will not be an UMNO member as long as Abdullah remains as an UMNO President,” Dr Mahathir told reporters in his home state of Kedah. He said he had lost confidence in UMNO’s ability to safeguard the interest of the ethnic Malay majority, whose rights and privileges were being scrutinised by non-Malays.

Dr Mahathir said he believed his move to leave Umno would not have an impact on the politics of the Malays.

"I was once thrown out of Umno and the Malay politics did not fade away. If the Malays want to correct the situation, it's not because of my quitting. If they are brave to save the party and the party's struggles, they must be brave to act," he said.


Extracts from Dr Mahathir’s speech to 1,000 Kedah Umno members and comments made at a press conference later:

On his call for Umno members to quit the party

"The Malays, Umno members and many other people have sent him messages of their dissatisfaction of his leadership but Abdullah is unperturbed. We have to be radical and brave and this is the only way to bring him down.

"I feel what we have now is no longer the true Umno. It is now a party that recognises Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as president, his interests and that of his family so much so that the interest of the country has to take a backseat. I can list down the things he has done that has not been beneficial to the country and that is why I am not hesitant to leave the party which no longer upholds that objectives of its formation 62 years ago."

On whether Umno members will heed his call

"It is up to them. To follow or not, but if they think they should continue to support Pak Lah and give priority to Datuk Abdullah Badawi over the party’s struggles, it is their right."

On Abdullah’s role in Election 2008

"He is responsible for destroying BN component parties like the MCA, MIC, Gerakan and PPP. As a result, the Chinese and Indian communities which have been strong supporters of the BN no longer have confidence in the ruling coalition."

On Kedah not having any representatives in the Cabinet

"We lost Perak, Penang, Selangor and Kelantan but they have representatives in the Cabinet but isn’t there anyone from Kedah."

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