The day Mahathir used the military to stay in power

The decision to admit UMNO baru into Barisan National has to be unanimous and even if just one party disagrees then UMNO baru cannot become a member of the coalition. However, before the meeting was held, all the Presidents of the component parties in Barisan Nasional were told that on the day of the meeting the military will be on ‘red alert’ and if Umno Baru was not admitted into Barisan Nasional, or if Mahathir (who would not be attending the meeting since he is no longer the Chairman and Umno is no longer a member) was ousted, then Malaysia would come under military rule.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

Not many Malaysians are aware that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was technically no longer the Prime Minister in February 1988. Umno had been deregistered by the Registrar of Societies (RoS) so the party was no longer a member of Barisan Nasional and Mahathir was no longer the coalition Chairman.

Mahathir should have resigned as Prime Minister in February 1988 or they could have passed a vote of no confidence in Parliament to remove Mahathir (and they had enough votes to do that because only about 50 of the 177 Members of Parliament were with Mahathir). Mahathir, however, warned Barisan Nasional that if they tried to remove him as Prime Minister (and allow Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to take over) he would use the military to take over and Parliament would be suspended like it once was in 1969).

Tengku Razaleigh and the rest of Barisan Nasional knew that Mahathir would do that because three months earlier he had appointed his brother-in-law as the new Armed Forces Chief as a preemptive strike in case they tried to oust him. Mahathir felt that most of Barisan Nasional was behind Tengku Razaleigh and in the event of a ‘hung’ party election the swing would be towards ‘Team B’.

According to Tengku Razaleigh, he had won the party election but Mahathir cheated. There was talk of the lights going out and stuffed votes and so on. In the end Mahathir scraped through with a razor-thin majority and Tengku Razaleigh was robbed of his Umno Presidency and of the post of Prime Minister as well.

Mahathir wanted to get rid of Tengku Razaleigh and his ‘Team B’ once and for all so he asked the Registrar of Societies (RoS) to deregister Umno. The RoS told Mahathir that Umno’s crime was not serious enough to warrant a deregistration. All they needed to do was to hold the party election again but Mahathir did not want that. He knew if he held the party election again then this time he was going to lose and Tengku Razaleigh would take over as the new Umno President and hence the new Prime Minister of Malaysia.


So Mahathir insisted that the RoS deregister Umno to avoid having to hold the party election again.

Incidentally, this is also what Lim Kit Siang hoped to do. That was why he refused to hold a party re-election after the December 2012 party election and the September 2013 re-election were declared null and void. They were hoping that this will then help avoid a new party re-election because the only way they can prevent Tan Seng Giaw and his ‘Team B’ from taking over the party would be to continue to cheat in the party re-election.

Anyway, the RoS refused to deregister DAP so they were still forced to hold a party re-election recently and they had to continue to cheat to prevent Tan Seng Giaw and gang from taking over. If they did not hold a party re-election then DAP might not be able to contest the coming general election under its own banner or flag and may have to tompangthe PAN banner-flag (like what almost happened in the 2013 general election when DAP wanted to contest the general election using the PAS banner-flag).

So, in 1988, Mahathir insisted that the RoS deregister Umno and then Tengku Razaleigh’s people quickly submitted an application to register a new party called UMNO Malaysia. When Mahathir found out he panicked and he told his Deputy, Tun Ghafar Baba, to quickly also submit an application to register a new Umno, which they called UMNO baru.




TELEGRAM: Raggie Jessy Rithaudeen

TWITTER: Raggie Jessy Rithaudeen