Straits Times Interactive, June 10, 2006
By Malaysia Correspondent, Carolyn Hong
KUALA LUMPUR - UMNO'S influential youth wing yesterday threw its support behind Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and criticised Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad for going overboard with personal attacks against the Prime Minister.
Umno Youth president Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also Malaysia's Education Minister, said the former prime minister's caustic comments did not reflect the views of the people.
'They were unwarranted, uncalled for and unfair,' he told reporters after the youth movement's meeting yesterday.
Umno Youth is seen as the ruling party's check-and-balance mechanism, but more interesting in this particular context is the play of personalities: Datuk Seri Abdullah's son-in-law, Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, is the deputy head while the son of Tun Dr Mahathir, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, is an exco member. Both are ambitious politicians.
Both men attended the meeting and gave their views: Mr Khairy backed his father-in-law, while Datuk Mukhriz defended his father. But it was said the discussion was non-emotional.
Datuk Hishammuddin - himself the son of former premier Tun Hussein Onn - said Umno Youth felt that Tun Dr Mahathir's opinion could harm the party. 'There is room to express unhappiness about policies but not personal attacks that can hurt the party,' he said.
It was not unexpected that Umno Youth should defend PM Abdullah against the attacks of Tun Dr Mahathir, who had accused his successor of betraying his trust by cancelling projects such as the bridge to replace the Causeway.
It was the reaction of Datuk Mukhriz that was more closely watched as he had previously taken his father's side against the movement's official stand when Tun Dr Mahathir slammed the government for aborting the bridge project.
At that time, he said he agreed with his father's view that the government had no reason to scrap the project. For this, he was taken to task by Umno Youth, including Mr Khairy.
But yesterday, Datuk Mukhriz stood with his party, at least on the point that the personal attack was unwarranted. But he also said it was disappointing that the questions raised did not get a rational response.
'I feel a little disappointed that some were quick to criticise him while they did not try to answer his questions rationally,' he said.
It is highly unlikely that this is the last time that Datuk Mukhriz will be forced to face such a conflict, for his father yesterday indicated that he has no intention of holding his peace.