PETALING JAYA: The axe fell on Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad when the Cabinet made a unanimous decision to remove him as adviser to Petronas following his move to initiate a citizens’ declaration demanding the ouster of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
The move by the Government now raises questions over the status of the former Prime Minister’s other appointed positions – as chairman of national carmaker Proton and the Perdana Leadership Foundation.
The Prime Minister’s Office, in a statement, said the Cabinet in its meeting yesterday discussed the actions of Dr Mahathir, particularly in launching the declaration along with opposition leaders last week.
The declaration, the statement said, aimed to topple the democratically-elected Government led by the Prime Minister, and is therefore against the law and the Federal Constitution.
“The Cabinet decided that, since Tun Mahathir is no longer supporting the current Government, he should no longer hold any position related to the Government.
“Therefore, the Cabinet today agreed unanimously to terminate the appointment of Tun Mahathir as adviser to Petronas,” the statement said.
The move by Dr Mahathir last week in initiating the declaration with a group of more than 50 politicians including from the opposition as well as civil society leaders led to calls by a number of Umno supreme council members and divisions for the Government to strip him of his positions in government linked companies and bodies.
Dr Mahathir was appointed to the Petronas position after he stepped down as Prime Minister in 2003.
In December 2013, he announced that he had resigned due to advice from his doctors that he needed to slow down.
Najib urged Dr Mahathir to rethink his decision and Dr Mahathir agreed to stay on.
Dr Mahathir was appointed as Proton chairman on May 16, 2014, two years after DRB Hicom bought a 42.7% stake in Proton from Khazanah Nasional Bhd for RM1.29bil.
Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said Dr Mahathir’s termination was the Government’s prerogative.
“He was appointed by the Government to be adviser, but his criticism of the Government has made his position untenable.
“It was only appropriate that the decision was made,” said Abdul Rahman, who is also Barisan Nasional’s strategic communications chief and Umno supreme council member.
Deputy Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman said he was saddened and regretted the situation, but added that the Government had no choice.
“It’s not that we don’t recognise his contributions all these years, but it is very awkward for Tun Mahathir to stay as adviser while at the same time ‘hammer’ the Prime Minister.
“Moreover, Tun Mahathir has joined the Opposition to attack us. This is not the way to do it, Tun Mahathir has become the Opposition,” said Tajuddin, who is also an Umno supreme council member.
Another council member Datuk Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said the decision was apt.
“Dr Mahathir should have resigned on his own after openly attacking the Government and the Prime Minister.
“It is not right that a person who holds such an important position be allowed to use all the facilities provided by the Government to attack the Government,” said Puad.
An aide to Dr Mahathir, when contacted said he would not be issuing any immediate reaction, while Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who has also expressed support for the declaration, declined to comment.
Blogger and former newspaper editor Datuk Abdul Kadir Jasin said that since Dr Mahathir was the leading figure in the declaration and has been very direct in calling on Najib to resign, his removal as Petronas adviser was expected.
“This shows that the current administration is not tolerant of criticism,” said Kadir.