Malays became divided under my successors, says Dr M

Dr Mahathir Mohamad says incompetent leadership following his resignation as prime minister and Umno president in 2003 resulted in division among the Malays.

Malays became divided under my successors, says Dr M

Malays became divided under my successors, says Dr M
Dr Mahathir Mohamad says the Malays were united under his leadership and they gave him strong support in the general elections.

PETALING JAYA: Former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has attributed the deep divisions within the Malay community to the incompetence of his successors after his resignation in 2003.

Mahathir said the Malays were largely united under Umno during his 22-year spell in office from 1981 to 2003. He said Umno received robust support from the Malays throughout his tenure which allowed Barisan Nasional to secure a two-thirds majority in five general elections.

“In 2008, when he stood for election, he lost five states,” Mahathir said in an exclusive interview with FMT. “That was the beginning of the split in Umno. Umno became very weak, and people were not supporting Umno any more.”

Even though BN made a strong showing in the 2004 general election, Malay unity was already crumbling under Abdullah’s leadership, said Mahathir.

Abdullah led BN to a historic landslide victory in 2004, sweeping 198 out of 219 parliamentary seats on offer. But by the 2008 general election, BN had lost its two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat and control of the Penang, Kedah, Selangor, Perak and Kelantan state governments.


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Mahathir said Abdullah’s government was marred by internal matters and allegations of favouritism, which led to the significant electoral setbacks in 2008.

“At first people thought that he was a very good leader, and they gave him full support. But between 2004 and 2008, it was shown that he was not capable,” he said.

Abdullah resigned in 2009, and was succeeded by his deputy, Najib Razak.

Mahathir said Malay disunity worsened under Najib due to his involvement in financial scandals, particularly those related to 1MDB, which gravely undermined Umno’s credibility and support.

Najib is now serving a jail sentence after being found guilty of abuse of power, money laundering and criminal breach of trust involving RM42 million in funds belonging to then 1MDB subsidiary, SRC International Sdn Bhd.


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He is also on trial on charges of abuse of power and money laundering involving RM2.28 billion, allegedly from 1MDB funds, deposited into his personal bank accounts when in office.

The 1MDB scandal led to widespread outrage and was a significant factor in BN’s loss in the 2018 general election, where they were defeated by Pakatan Harapan (PH), marking the first change of government in the country’s history.

Mahathir also lamented that the fragmentation of Malay political power has weakened their ability to secure a majority in general elections.

“At one time, the Malays were united in Umno. All Malays were in Umno, including the religious people, English-educated, Malay educated – all were in Umno,” he said.

“But those who left Umno started forming (different) political parties. (So) the Malays are now split into four or five political parties.”


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Umno, founded in 1946, led the Alliance and later the BN coalitions which dominated Malaysia’s political scene for six decades before being ousted from power in 2018.

Internal strife led to the formation of various splinter parties, such as the short-lived Semangat 46 of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in the late 1980s. Later there was PKR, formed after Mahathir fell out with his then deputy Anwar Ibrahim in 1998, and Bersatu, set up by Mahathir himself in 2016 after he walked out of Umno.

A subsequent disagreement with current Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin saw Mahathir set up yet another Malay party, Pejuang, in 2020, which he left last year to form Putra.

Malays became divided under my successors, says Dr M



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