Malaysia's former PM defends actions after shocking polls results

March 28, 2008
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) . Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad defended his 22-year leadership as his successor faces a backlash over the ruling coalition's recent shocking poll losses.

The Barisan Nasional (BN) government coalition was delivered a stunning blow in March 8 general elections, ceding five states and a third of parliamentary seats to the previously impotent opposition.

Mahathir said in an open letter published on the front page of The Sun newspaper Friday that supporters of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who heads the BN, would try to blame him for the coalition's woes.

"My detractors are going to say I did worse things when I was prime minister... I am aware that people are looking into possible misdeeds by me during my 22 years so as to threaten me and to ask me to shut up," Mahathir said in the letter.

Abdullah has repeatedly refused to stand down since BN was handed its worst electoral result since 1969 in the elections.

Mahathir had blamed Abdullah of "destroying" the BN and urged him to step down.

Observers say Abdullah, who led the BN to a landslide victory in 2004 after he first became prime minister, was punished for the country's high inflation, rising crime rates, ethnic tensions and a failure to tackle corruption.

The release last year of a video recording by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim purportedly showing a well known lawyer allegedly brokering top judicial appointments, triggered a commission inquiry.

Mahathir's critics say the image of a tainted judiciary stems from his tenure as prime minister after three of the country's most senior judges were dismissed in 1988 after clashing with him.

In an effort to rejuvenate his administration, Abdullah unveiled a new cabinet last week, appointing many fresh faces including Zaid Ibrahim as the de-facto law minister.

Zaid, tasked with reforming the judiciary, has suggested that the present administration apologise for the sacking of the three judges but the opposition has demanded that Mahathir himself offer an apology.

The former prime minister flatly denied any wrongdoing during his rule.

"Unless there is a frame-up, I think there should be nothing to pin on me. Even other accusations against me, including the dismissal of judges, were not my doing and I do not feel obliged to apologise," Mahathir wrote.

-- AFP