The Star: Mahathir 'frustrated' with corruption in Umno
KUALA LUMPUR - Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said he is utterly frustrated that the Malay party he helped develop into Malaysia's dominant political force has become riddled with corruption and bribery.
'I feel very, very frustrated because this is something that is quite personal,' he told The Star newspaper in the first of a two-part interview published on Monday.
Dr Mahathir, an iconic Asian leader who stepped down as prime minister after 22 years in office on Oct 31, 2003, said 'money politics' had already started seeping into the United Malays National Organisation in the 1970s when he rejoined the party.
'Money politics' refers to senior leaders paying huge sums of money to party members to vote for them to senior positions in party elections. This was reportedly widespread during the last Umno elections in July, but no open allegations were made, and no leader were punished.
'Unfortunately, everybody talks about money politics, everybody says it is rampant. But no one wants to say who. And they know who,' he said, during the interview. He said he encountered corruption in Umno when he first contested party election for the vice-president's post in 1975.
'There were people who came to me ... and told me if I gave them money, they were prepared to give me a bloc vote. I said it was all right. If I don't win, I don't win. That's why I very nearly lost as vice-president. I was No. 3, very far down.'
He dodged questions about whether his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, can do anything to end money politics.
Datuk Seri Abdullah can fix the problem only if 'people are prepared to name names', he said.
The first part of the interview dealt only with the corruption. The second part, scheduled to be published on Tuesday, deals with US presidential elections and other issues including the firing and subsequent jailing of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in September 1998 for sodomy and corruption, The Star said. -- AP
Alex - 18.10.2004
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