Ruling party members told to stay away from Mahathir
Baradan Kuppusamy in Kuala Lumpur
Members of the ruling United Malays National Organisation have been ordered to ostracise Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's former prime minister and the party's leader for 22 years.
Most of Umno's 3 million members were already limiting contacts with Dr Mahathir after he launched a barrage of criticism of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi. But the party ruled on Tuesday that they can have contact only with serving Umno leaders.
It said the same rule was in force when Dr Mahathir was in power.
'Inviting Dr Mahathir to attend or open Umno meetings is a breach of party discipline,' said party secretary-general Radzi Sheikh Ahmad. 'We hope members don't invite Dr Mahathir to their functions. If they do, we can't help them.'
Last week, Dr Mahathir said party members had cancelled seven meetings that he had scheduled to explain why he felt Mr Abdullah was unfit as prime minister. He also said that former ministers were avoiding him.
'These are people I had sat with on the same table for over 20 years and they cannot meet me,' Dr Mahathir told a gathering in opposition-ruled Kelantan state last Friday.
'They will be blacklisted if they are seen with me.'
Dr Mahathir has already been shunned by a mainstream media that previously had reported his every word.
The media boycott apparently was ordered by the government after Dr Mahathir lambasted Mr Abdullah last month for what he said was a failure to fulfil his duties as prime minister.
Dr Mahathir also accused Mr Abdullah of using his office to aid the businesses of his son, Kamaluddin, and his 31-year-old son-in-law, Khairy Jamaluddin.
Despite the boycott, Dr Mahathir is, like his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, still able to exploit the internet, SMS and online news portals to get his political message across.
However, Mr Abdullah has tightened the clampdown, warning writers in online news portals and blogs yesterday that they faced arrest and prosecution if they wrote 'lies and innuendoes'.
Dr Mahathir has said he might organise rival Umno meetings if he was not allowed to meet party members. The former prime minister was expelled as a Umno member in 1969 for criticising the then leadership but was readmitted in 1972 and rose swiftly to take on the top job in 1981. He retired in 2003.