KUALA LUMPUR, June 26 — Former Umno president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad absolved himself of any blame for the Malay nationalist party’s culture, suggesting it was natural progression after it came to power.
He made this assertion when interviewers from Asia Times asked if he regretted shaping Umno into its current guise.
“No, I inherited that. You see, in most multiracial countries the indigenous people formulate the culture. Mostly people identify with the people who are already there,” he told the interviewers.
The twice-former prime minister argued that the local community was not in favour of multiracial parties, which in turn influenced the strategies of politicians who wanted to be successful.
Umno is among political parties that restrict membership based on race.
He claimed politicians could not afford to go against such sentiments if they hoped to secure the support of voters from their own race.
“You will never win an election.”
Dr Mahathir also accepted no blame for the image of corruption linked to Umno, again suggesting that this was inevitable due to the party’s lengthy rule.
Umno had governed Malaysia during an unbroken spell of six decades that was eventually ended, coincidentally by Dr Mahathir and Pakatan Harapan, in 2018.
Dr Mahathir was also the country’s fourth prime minister for over two decades, from 1981 to 2003.
“As they say, power corrupts. Initially Umno was very clean. When we fought against the British, against the Malayan Union, no money was involved. We all made sacrifices.
“But later on when we became independent, people realised that if you’re active in politics, you can actually become quite rich,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said this realisation began to corrupt the aims and practices of those in or seeking to join politics, which gave rise to the euphemistic “money politics” that came to be associated with Umno during his time as its president.
He asserted that he tried repeatedly to warn Umno as far back as the 1980s that it could not continue on this path as it would be voted out of power.
However, he said his prediction did not come true until the 14th general election.
Coincidentally, Dr Mahathir and another former prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, have recently been trading barbs online over the alleged corruption involving their children.