On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Skip the side-shows and tackle real issues

One of the hottest talking points today is speculation over how the
Umno supreme council meeting tomorrow will deal with its former
president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. 

The talk that Dr Mahathir may be sacked started after PAS vice president Datuk Husam Musa told Harakah that he expected Umno to act against the former premier for his harsh criticism against Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. 

Although Dr Mahathir was sacked from Umno in 1969 following his
widespread distribution to the public of his letter to then Prime
Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, the likelihood of him being dismissed for
a second time is unlikely. It is far-fetched and a fantasy of PAS.  

Umno members and the people in general would regard such a move as
sledgehammer treatment that would not be in sync with Abdullah's
decision not to rebut Dr Mahathir.  

Abdullah's "elegant silence" has been well received by the people, as
they do not want the spat to worsen. Such a scenario would not do any
good to Malaysia, economically and politically. 

It is Dr Mahathir's right to criticise the leadership and a sacking,
under such circumstances, would not be justified. The Prime Minister,
after all, is also committed to the principles of transparency and

Over the past week, Umno Members of Parliament, Mentris Besar and the
Barisan Nasional component leaders have all pledged their support to
Abdullah. The expression of support has been overwhelming and certainly
his control of Umno is unshakeable. 

There may be pockets of unhappiness against Abdullah, judging by
comments posted on various Malay websites, some of which are said to be
linked to certain Umno personalities. But generally, the majority of
Umno leaders have sided with Abdullah. 

Many of those who posted their views online expressed their
unhappiness, if not disgust, at Umno leaders who run down Dr Mahathir
now when they previously praised, and even curried favour, with Dr

These views may not be an accurate assessment of the feelings of the
Umno grassroots but they do provide an indication of the sentiments of
some Umno members who have been ignored by the media. 

But even those close to Dr Mahathir acknowledge the reality that it
makes no sense for ambitious Umno politicians to back this retired
politician who has no plans and no hope of coming back to power. It is
only politically wise to invest in the present and the future, if one
wants to climb the hierarchy. 

Dr Mahathir said he had spoken out on various issues because he was
concerned at the way certain policies had been handled by the Abdullah
administration and had, at one point, said that "something had gone

Last week, Abdullah decided that the relevant ministries would reply to
Dr Mahathir's queries on four issues he had raised, after meeting 78
members of the Barisan Backbenchers Club, including senators. 

According to Johor Baru MP Datuk Shahrir Samad, replies would be given
to Dr Mahathir "openly, clearly and fully so that if there are any
doubts among the public, they can be quashed". Interestingly, Shahrir
had earlier suggested to Abdullah not to bother replying to Dr

One can understand where Shahrir is coming from because whatever
answers provided by the ministers would probably not be accepted by Dr

The outcome can be predicted because when the Foreign Ministry issued
an 18-page reply on April 24 over the Johor Bridge controversy, the Tun
dismissed it as the "ramblings" of the then ministry's
secretary-general Tan Sri Fuzi Razak. 

One wonders how much different his response would be when another reply is given this time.  

Yesterday, the first explanation to Dr Mahathir came through a direct
response from Proton. Although it was from the company's perspective,
it helped shed some light on the two decisions taken that had not gone
down well with the former premier. 

But the political temperature has gone down somewhat. Reporters turned
up in full when Dr Mahathir spoke at a peace forum at a hotel in
Petaling Jaya on Wednesday. At the end of the forum, the press
attempted to get Dr Mahathir to comment on the various issues relating
to his feud with Abdullah, but he turned them down. 

Some have suggested that Dr Mahathir did not want to prolong the
controversy any more as enough had been said. There is also speculation
that the two had spoken to each other without the knowledge of their
aides and advisers. 

A family holiday trip to Europe is coming up soon for Dr Mahathir and
certainly his absence would also help emotions to cool down. It would
allow both sides to reflect on what has taken place over the past two
weeks and, hopefully, for some form of healing process to take place. 

Both Dr Mahathir and Abdullah are respected figures. They have their
strengths and weaknesses. The former has contributed tremendously to
Malaysia but surely he has to acknowledge that he has also failed in
many aspects during the two decades of leadership. 

He is, after all, a mere mortal who has made many mistakes and, in his own words, made many errors of judgment. 

In the case of Abdullah, he has been accused of being indecisive, weak
and under the influence of certain personalities. But let us not forget
that we, the voters, have given him a massive mandate for five years.
We should let him handle his job, by no means an easy one, and give him
all our support. 

I believe that the majority of Malaysians would like to see the
leadership spend its time tackling real people issues like the rising
cost of living. Ordinary Malaysians talk about their rising petrol and
electricity bills, and now the sugar shortage.  

By the way, where is the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal as we face these problems?