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Malaysia's ex-PM Badawi hits out at predecessor Mahathir in latest book

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

Petaling Jaya   /   Fri, August 9, 2013   /  02:59 pm

Former Malaysian prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has hit out at his predecessor and chief critic Dr Mahathir Mohamad in a soon-to-be-released book called The Awakening - The Abdullah Badawi Years In Malaysia.

Touching on his prickly relationship with Mahathir, Abdullah said that he did not like it when his predecessor chose to attack him in public.

He also said Malaysia would have been bankrupt had he taken Mahathir's advice on spending.

Abdullah's defence against Mahathir's attacks appears in a 38-page chapter titled Doing The Invisible: A Conversation With Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, according to Malaysian media.

The book, edited by political analysts and Malaysia experts Professor James Chin and Bridget Welsh, also contains essays by Malaysian and foreign political pundits, academia and writers giving their take on the Abdullah years between October 2003 and March 2009, The Malaysian Insider reported.

Chin of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore said Awakening was the first serious study to chronicle Malaysia's political history during Abdullah's term and how he had changed the political landscape.

It had "nothing to do with Pak Lah (Abdullah's nickname) attacking Mahathir", he was quoted as saying by The Star daily.

Yet, Abdullah's comments on Mahathir generated considerable interest in the Malaysian media.

In an interview with the co-editors, the fifth premier of Malaysia also disclosed why he had kept silent since leaving office and revealed why he would doze off so often during official meetings.

Abdullah, 73, said that his predecessor's attacks had strengthened his resolve to not interfere with the work of his successor, current Prime Minister Najib Razak.

"From the experience I went through, I knew it would not be fair if I were to interfere with Najib because I want him to establish himself as the prime minister. Let his voice be heard and let him decide the course he should take without having me saying something else or contradicting him," he said.

"That is why I have remained silent all this time. I believe that once you retire, you are retired."

Abdullah also said he gave Mahathir ample opportunities to air his views.

"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. I don't know what he wanted."

Abdullah also claimed Mahathir was aware that he suffered from a sleeping disorder, yet chose to deride him in public about it.

He put down their strained relationship to his predecessor's "inability to accept any other view except his own".

Mahathir was of the view that the government should continue to spend, The Malaysian Insider quoted Abdullah as saying in the book.

"But how do we do it when the deficit was at such critical levels? It would be highly irresponsible for me to continue spending.

"So we had no choice but to reduce the deficit by postponing some mega-projects like double tracking (the rail system) and this made Mahathir furious.

"I suppose he viewed them as his pet projects."

Mahathir made no immediate comment when asked for his response to Abdullah's trenchant comments.

"I am studying the book. I will make some reference about it along the way," Mahathir was quoted as saying by The Star on Thursday.

The book's Malaysia launch by Abdullah and former deputy premier Musa Hitam will take place on August 16 in Kuala Lumpur, a post on Welsh's website said.

An informal launch has also been planned for Singapore later this month.

Gloves off for Abdullah

On Mahathir's criticim:

"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."

On his resistance to Mahathir wanting to push through pet projects:

"The deficit, which we brought down to 3.2 per cent, crept up again due to subsidies for oil and essentials and hovered again at the 5 per cent level. If we had not been prudent then, continued to spend, I can tell you we would be bankrupt by now."

On the 2008 election results, which saw (ruling party in Malaysia) Barisan Nasional lose its two-thirds majority for the first time:

"Mahathir cannot deny that he contributed to the erosion of Barisan Nasional's support in the 2008 elections through his open and unwarranted criticisms and attacks, calling my administration, which included a majority of people from his own Cabinet, a 'half-past-6 government' and accusing us of corruption and all kinds of things. I will not do the same to Najib."

On criticisms of his son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin, who was dubbed as one of the "Level 4 boys", as the team of aides and press secretaries was called:

"After the 2004 results, we recruited people from outside of government, people who believed in the changes I wanted to make. But the establishment, which resisted these changes, instead of working with these boys, proceeded to demonise them."

On his sleep apnea:

"I did tell Mahathir of my condition. So, for him to say that I doze off because I'm not interested in the job is most unkind."

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