(Updated 6:42pm, 28 March 2009)
KUALA LUMPUR, 28 March 2009: Former prime minister and former Umno president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today he would rejoin Umno.
He said he would announce the date of his return to the party at a suitable time “after (sorting out) several matters”.
“I have to fill up a form. It takes some time. I will let you know later. I am waiting for certain events,” he told reporters after attending the Umno general assembly 2008 at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here as an observer.
On 19 May last year, at a ceramah in Alor Setar, Kedah, Mahathir announced his withdrawal from Umno, saying he had lost confidence in the party.
Mahathir, accompanied by his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, was seen entering the Dewan Merdeka venue of the Umno meeting at 12.30pm when Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was delivering his winding-up speech.
Both of them were given a rousing welcome by the delegates who stood up to show their appreciation.
Mahathir was seen nodding, as though in agreement, when Muhyiddin expressed the hope of seeing the former prime minister rejoin Umno.
Muhyiddin said Mahathir’s presence more or less reflected his recognition of the new Umno leadership line-up, a statement to which the delegates responded with claps.
At the end of the assembly, Mahathir went down to the main stage and exchanged greetings with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Umno supreme council members and then he, Abdullah, Datuk Seri Najib Razak and Muhyiddin together held up their hands.
Hope for the future
Asked why he decided to attend the assembly after having decided against doing so earlier, Mahathir said Muhyiddin’s election as the deputy president gave him the confidence that the anticipated changes in Umno would take place after all.
“I think there is hope for the future,” he said.
Mahathir had stated earlier in his blogsite, CheDet.com, that he would not attend the assembly as he felt that Umno Youth had openly condoned money politics.
Mahathir said Umno should fight for the people and not for certain group of individuals if it wants regain the support of the people.
“Without the people, Umno cannot win. Umno’s consolidation process depends very much on where the party is heading, whether it truly fights for the people or for certain group of people,” he said.
Mahathir also agreed to the suggestion that the party do away with the nomination quota which determines the eligibility of members to contest for party posts.
But the most important, he said, was for the party to eliminate money politics because “even if we change the system ten times, if money politics is still being practised, then Umno will be destroyed,” he said.
Asked on the power transition from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Adullah Ahmad Badawi to Najib, Dr Mahathir said, “The succession is from the Umno president (to his deputy) and I hope another transition from the prime minister will happen.”
Denying that he would be appointed a government adviser, he said, “If you ask for my advice, why not. Just like Pak Lah, he says he can give his advice, I also can give mine.”
On the Umno line-up, Mahathir said, “There are still certain things which I am not happy with.”
Good for Umno
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein described Mahathir’s presence as the openess in Umno which did not exist in the opposition.
“I am overwhelmed because his presence would hasten our effort to close ranks. This differentiate us and as vice-president I will help shoulder the responsibility entrusted to us to rebuild the party,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mahathir’s third son, Mukhriz, hoped that his father would return to Umno as soon as possible.
“This is what we have been waiting for. My father has actually promised that on the day Datuk Seri Najib takes over party presidency, he will submit his membership application form.
“This (Najib’s presidency) has now become a reality and we are delighted at this new development. However, I’ve never influenced my father to make the decision,” Mukhriz told reporters at the conclusion of the Umno general assembly today. — Bernama