Malaysia’s former PM vows to challenge expulsion from ruling political party

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference at his party headquarters in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Friday, May 29, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 29 May 2020

Malaysia’s former PM vows to challenge expulsion from ruling political party

  • Experts predict ‘all-out war’ between ex-PM and current Malaysian premier in wake of parliamentary seating row

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on Friday vowed to challenge his shock dismissal from the political party he co-founded in 2016.

And the ex-PM also questioned the legal position of current Malaysian premier, Muhyiddin Yassin, as the party chair.

In a statement on Thursday, the ruling United Indigenous Party of Malaysia (Bersatu) said Mahathir’s membership had been “revoked with immediate effect.”

The next day Mahathir shared a message on social media from the party’s offices saying, “I am at the Bersatu headquarters. They say they want to expel me. I am waiting at the office.”

During a press conference at the same building on Friday, Mahathir said: “I am still the chairman (of Bersatu), please remember that, because when they tried to remove me (from the party) it was not valid.”

Other Members of Parliament also facing the sack are Mahathir’s son Mukhriz Mahathir, former youth and sports minister, Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, ex-education minister, Maszlee Malik, and Amiruddin Hamzah.

Mahathir has questioned the validity of the termination letter, sent to him by Bersatu’s executive secretary Muhammad Suhaimi Yahya, which said he had been dismissed as Bersatu chairman for breaching the party’s constitution during a parliamentary sitting on May 18. Muhammad claimed that Mahathir had sat with the opposition bloc instead of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) bloc led by Bersatu president Muhyiddin.

However, Mahathir said: “Where you sit (in the parliament) is not the cause for sacking.” He added that his actions had not violated the party’s constitution.

The cracks within Bersatu began in late February when the party was split into two camps – Mahathir and Muhyiddin – following an intense week of political mud-slinging which saw the resignation of Mahathir as PM and the appointment of Muhyiddin as the new Malaysian leader.

Mahathir slammed the May 18 parliamentary session as a sham, saying the only person allowed to speak was the Malaysian king. “We have been denied the right to speak in the parliament,” said Mahathir, adding that the seating arrangements went against the country’s democracy.

The government held the one-day parliamentary sitting instead of the usual months-long session as a precaution against the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. However, the country has started to open up its economy again and allowed most businesses to operate.

Malaysia’s current system of governance follows that of Britain, and according to Prof. James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at Australia’s Tasmania University, Muhyiddin had no choice but to sack Mahathir.

“You cannot have one party where one faction is in the government and another faction is in the opposition,” said Chin, adding that the dismissal would spark an “all-out war” between the two politicians.

“Obviously, Muhyiddin thinks there is no chance between him and Mahathir. Now that he has sacked Mahathir, it frees Mahathir from playing nice,” he said.

Dr. Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said: “Mahathir is going on the offensive. He would not sit there and take things as they come.”

Oh told Arab News that 94-year-old Mahathir was using his charismatic aura and undisputed respect of his party members to try to win the party’s will against Muhyiddin.

“Now we are seeing a double-headed leadership contesting against each other,” he added.

He noted that if Mahathir failed to gain party support, he might appeal to the Societies of Registry (ROS), or the courts. “If all avenues are exhausted, Mahathir may even set up a new political party or take over the leadership of an existing party,” said Oh.

Director of Bower Group Asia, Adip Zalkapli, said: “He won’t let the Malaysian prime minister rest.”

Muhyiddin already has his own party’s internal politics to deal with, as well as balancing power against the PN coalition members, specifically the United Malays National Organization. He is also facing a motion of no confidence from the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan.


John Hume, who worked to end N. Ireland violence, dies at 83

Updated 03 August 2020

John Hume, who worked to end N. Ireland violence, dies at 83

  • Although he advocated for a united Ireland, Hume believed change could not come to Northern Ireland without the consent of its Protestant majority
  • John Hume: I want to see Ireland as an example to men and women everywhere of what can be achieved by living for ideals, rather than fighting for them

LONDON: John Hume, the visionary politician who won a Nobel Peace Prize for fashioning the agreement that ended violence in his native Northern Ireland, has died at 83, his family said Monday.
The Catholic leader of the moderate Social Democratic and Labour Party, Hume was seen as the principal architect of Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace agreement. He shared the prize later that year with the Protestant leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, for their efforts to end the sectarian violence that plagued the region for three decades and left more than 3,500 people dead.
“I want to see Ireland as an example to men and women everywhere of what can be achieved by living for ideals, rather than fighting for them, and by viewing each and every person as worthy of respect and honor,” he said in 1998. “I want to see an Ireland of partnership, where we wage war on want and poverty, where we reach out to the marginalized and dispossessed, where we build together a future that can be as great as our dreams allow.”
Hume died Monday morning after suffering from ill health for several years, his family said.
Born on Jan. 18, 1937, in Northern Ireland’s second city — Londonderry to British Unionists, Derry to Irish nationalists — Hume trained for the priesthood before becoming a fixture on Northern Ireland’s political landscape. An advocate of nonviolence, he fought for equal rights in what was then a Protestant-ruled state, but he condemned the Irish Republican Army because of his certainty that no injustice was worth a human life.
Although he advocated for a united Ireland, Hume believed change could not come to Northern Ireland without the consent of its Protestant majority. He also realized that better relations needed to be forged between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and between London and Dublin.
He championed the notion of extending self-government to Northern Ireland with power divided among the groups forming it.
“Ireland is not a romantic dream; it is not a flag; it is 4.5 million people divided into two powerful traditions,″ he said. “The solution will be found not on the basis of victory for either, but on the basis of agreement and a partnership between both. The real division of Ireland is not a line drawn on the map, but in the minds and hearts of its people.”
While both Hume and Trimble credited the people of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic for approving a referendum that led to power sharing, it was Hume’s diplomacy that offered the impetus to the peace process that led to the 1998 Good Friday accord.
Hume won the breakthrough in Belfast’s political landscape in 1993 by courting Gerry Adams, the head of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, in hopes of securing an IRA cease-fire. That dialogue burnished Adams’ international credibility and led to two IRA cease-fires in 1994 and 1997.
Like most Protestant politicians at the time, Trimble had opposed efforts to share power with Catholics as something that would jeopardize Northern Ireland’s union with Britain. He at first refused to speak directly with Adams, insisting that IRA commanders needed to prove they were willing to abandon violence.
He ultimately relented and became pivotal in peacemaking efforts.
Hume had envisioned a broad agenda for the discussions, arguing they must be driven by close cooperation between the British and Irish governments. The process was overseen by neutral figures like US mediator George Mitchell, with the decisions overwhelmingly ratified by public referendums in both parts of Ireland.
“Without John Hume, there would not have been a peace process,” Mitchell said at the time the prize was announced. ”Without David Trimble, there would not have been a peace agreement.”
Hume and Trimble were said to have had a frosty relationship. But Trimble on Monday described a thawing after the Nobel ceremony in Oslo, recalling that the hotel at which they were staying had suggested the two men chose to relax away from each other.
“We didn’t do that. We relaxed and in some sense celebrated the occasion jointly, and that for me spelt out the principle for how we were going to proceed in the years after that,” he told the BBC.
Tributes poured in after’s Hume’s death was announced, including praise from Adams, who called him a “giant in Irish politics.” Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was in office at the time the accord was signed, lauded Hume’s “epic” contribution to the peace process.
Former US President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement describing their sadness.
“Through his faith in principled compromise, and his ability to see his adversaries as human beings, John helped forge the peace that has held to this day,” they said.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Northern Ireland of today is Hume’s legacy.
“He stood proudly in the tradition that was totally opposed to violence and committed to pursuing his objectives by exclusively peaceful and democratic means,” Johnson said on Twitter. “His vision paved the way for the stability, positivity and dynamism of the Northern Ireland of today and his passing is a powerful reminder of how far Northern Ireland has come.”
Hume’s family said his funeral would be in keeping with strict guidelines on attendees because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A memorial will be arranged later.
“We are grateful for your condolences and support, and we appreciate that you will respect the family’s right to privacy at this time of great loss,” the family said in a statement. “It seems particularly apt for these strange and fearful days to remember the phrase that gave hope to John and so many of us through dark times: ‘We shall overcome.’”