©New Straits Times (Used by permission)
by V. Vasudevan
KUALA LUMPUR, Wed: A spat between former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and DAP chairman Karpal Singh has escalated into the former describing the latter as the “most contemptible of politicians and individuals.” Dr Mahathir’s outburst was triggered by a March 27 letter where Karpal accused the former PM of abusing provisions of Article 125 (3) of the Federal Constitution during the 1988 judicial crisis, which resulted in the creation of two tribunals.
The two tribunals eventually found three judges guilty of misconduct and resulted in the removal of then Lord President, Tun Salleh Abas, High Court Judges, Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh and Datuk George Seah.
“I am writing to you to indicate to me whether you are prepared to tender an unqualified and unconditional apology to Tun Salleh Abas, Datuk George Seah and the family of the late Tan Sri Wan Suleiman Pawanteh. This is the least you can do in your lifetime to atone for your actions for what transpired 20 years ago,” he told Dr Mahathir in the letter.
Karpal said he would raise the matter of an apology by Dr Mahathir at the coming sitting of the Dewan Rakyat, which begins on April 28.
But in a letter dated April 3, Dr Mahathir told the MP for Bukit Gelugor that he and his detractors would never believe whatever he said. “You are moved by pure hatred and I cannot respond to people who can never accept reality. My conscience is clear. I have done what was my duty and I owe nobody any apology. I am sure you will make use of this letter to dirty my name further. That is your right. I think you are the most contemptible of politicians and individuals,” said Dr Mahathir in his reply.
In disclosing Dr Mahathir’s April 3 reply to his March 27 letter to the Press today, Karpal said he did not receive the letter earlier, which was faxed to him, but a copy of the letter was hand-delivered to Karpal’s legal firm today.
Karpal said he stood by what he had said in his March 27 letter but did comment on Dr Mahathir “most contemptible of politicians and individuals” remark.
“As Dr Mahathir is much older to me, I do not propose to hurt his feelings in the vein by which he described me,” Karpal said. “I would advise Dr Mahathir to take my views in his stride. I assure him I don’t hate him.”
Karpal called on Dr Mahathir to stop championing the cause of the Opposition by persistently attacking Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. “The opposition does not need the unsolicited support of Dr Mahathir to ensure that the Barisan Nasional government is kept on its toes.
“Dr Mahathir should, perhaps, devote more time to his grandchildren in the twilight years of his life,” said Karpal. “It is time for him to keep his peace and let the Opposition keep the Government of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in check.”
Karpal said the opposition, with its 82 seats in parliament, had the numbers to achieve this objective and does not need Dr Mahathir who went to the extent of de-registering Umno in 1988 and generally “behaving in a dictatorial manner.”
He pointed out that Dr Mahathir’s abuse of power when was Prime Minister was conceded by Umno leaders, including Abdullah. “He had publicly stated that Dr Mahathir was responsible for Operasi Lallang. I am sure Umno members will agree with what I am saying. I don’t think Umno members today hold him in high esteem.”
Contacted by phone, Karpal said he would pursue the case for an apology from Dr Mahathir in the coming session of the Dewan Rakyat while debating the Royal Address.
“I am confident I will have support from the other MPs,” he said. “There will be many speakers will speak up. I am sure many Umno MPs will agree with what I have to say but out of party discipline, they will be forced to keep silent.