Abdullah to hit back at Mahathir

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 July, 2006, 12:00am

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who is under attack from his predecessor Mahathir Mohamad for alleged incompetence and betrayal, will make his case on a nationwide tour.

Mr Abdullah plans to refute Dr Mahathir's allegations in a move political analysts say will strengthen his hand in Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir will hit the road to explain why he wants Mr Abdullah out.

Last week, the government released documents to discredit Dr Mahathir's charges that Mr Abdullah 'sold out' to Singapore by scrapping a bridge connecting the two nations.

Later this week, the government will release a 'special book' refuting Dr Mahathir's charges.

However, Mr Abdullah seems to feel these methods will not reach the people who overwhelmingly backed his 2004 reform agenda.

Political scientist P. Ramasamy said the tour was an attempt by Mr Abdullah to answer Dr Mahathir's charges directly to the people.

'He can't leave it [the explaining] to press statements, booklets or his ministers,' he said.

Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin said Mr Abdullah hoped to 'develop the people's confidence and explain issues that confuse the masses'.

During the tour, Mr Abdullah is expected to tout a M$220 billion ($463 billion), five-year economic plan he announced in May. It gives preference to agriculture and rural development over giant infrastructure projects and big business.

Dr Mahathir's supporters have been busy organising his own speaking functions.

His organisers say Dr Mahathir 'will criss-cross the length and breadth of the country' as he continues his campaign against Mr Abdullah.