PETALING JAYA: Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (pic) claims it was former party president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who clamped down on freedom of speech within the party, but says he will reinstate it if he wins in the upcoming party polls.
In an interview with Malaysiakini, the Gua Musang MP, who will be contesting the presidency in Saturday's (June 30) polls, said it was Dr Mahathir who made it compulsory for delegates to have their scripts approved before debating in Umno annual general assemblies.
"This practice has been there for 25 years. It was (the doing) of Dr Mahathir.
"The delegates (list) needed to be verified by the supreme council before they can speak at the AGM. Their speech scripts must obtain the approval too," he was quoted as saying.
He added that the party leadership would edit the scripts if needed.
Dr Mahathir led Umno from 1981 to 2003 and resigned in 2016 over corruption scandals involving former premier Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He later set up Party Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which is now part of the Pakatan Harapan Government.
In the interview, Tengku Razaleigh claimed that during the era of Umno former presidents Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, members could speak freely.
In light of this, the 81-year-old Kelantan prince said during his campaign rounds, he heard many of its grassroots members were demanding for freedom of speech.
Hence, he wanted party delegates to voice out on any issue they wished to, including those similar to 1MDB.
"What's wrong with that (bringing up something similar to 1MDB)? As long as it does not infringe on the standing orders, then it is okay.
"They can speak anything (against me). I will respond when it is my turn," he said.
The other candidates vying for the presidential post are Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin, Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Bandar Tun Razak committee member Mohamed Iqbal Maricair and Iskandar Puteri member Mohd Yusof Musa @ Jamaluddin.