Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has begun distributing a letter to members of the ruling party he once headed, appealing to be heard at its functions to speak about the current administration, which he accuses of nepotism and corruption.
"They are afraid of letting me speak because they are in the wrong," Mahathir said in the letter, referring to the government of his hand-picked successor, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The letter is being distributed at meetings of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), his aides say. Mahathir claims he has had several speaking engagements that were canceled by the ruling party since he began a sometimes-personal and vitriolic attack on Abdullah and his family in recent months.
"UMNO members need to know which path their leaders are taking them down," he said in the letter. "If members are only allowed to hear one side of the story, can they pass judgment, can they make a decision?"
Mahathir yesterday addressed his first UMNO meeting since he began firing accusations at his successor.
In recent months, Mahathir has repeatedly accused Abdullah of compromising public interest by scrapping big projects that Mahathir proposed before he stepped down in 2003. He has also accused Abdullah's family members of personally benefiting from government contracts and policy decisions.
He also alleged yesterday that there may have been "payments" between the government and car-import permit holders he says are ruining loss-making national carmaker Proton.
The months-old dispute between Mahathir and Abdullah has sparked fears of factional fighting among ruling party members whose loyalty is being torn between Malaysia's two most respected political figures.
Mahathir, who was prime minister from 1981 until 2003, has yet to produce evidence of any corruption, but said yesterday he would release it when the time was right.
He said UMNO would survive even if there is a leadership change, a hint he was seeking to push Abdullah out of office.
"UMNO was strong when I left office," he said to raucous applause from the estimated crowd of 500.
"The party, whenever it goes through crisis, has always emerged stronger ... the departure of leaders has not caused the destruction of the party."