A defiant Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak today for the first time launched a broadside against former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad and vowed that he will not be pushed out of office.
Najib pointed out that he had remained steadfast behind Mahathir when the latter almost lost as Umno president in 1987 and the former prime minister should now return the favour.
He added if Mahathir (photo) cannot do so, then he should not be making noise.
"In 1987, I was among the ones who supported him. Why did he remain as prime minister? Because we stood together in difficult times.
"When he was in trouble, we supported him to stay on. If we did not support our leader in a time of trial, he (Mahathir) would not have lasted for 22 years as prime minister.
"So, do not forget, when he (Mahathir) became prime minister, we gave him full support. Now when he is no longer prime minister, support us in return.
"If (he) cannot support, then don’t make so much noise," he was quoted as saying by Bernama during a rally in Tawau, Sabah before a crowd of 40,000 supporters.
The crowd, who spilled onto the road, chanted 'Najib', 'Najib', 'Najib' when he asked who they supported.
He was also welcomed with the beating of drums, Bernama reported.
'I won't go as long as rakyat trusts me'
This was a booster for the PM, who said he will only leave if the rakyat and Umno reject him.
"I will only bow to pressure from party members and the rakyat. As long as my party supports me, as long as the people trust me, I will continue this struggle," he reportedly said at Padang Perbandaran Tawau.
He said he is a legitimate Umno president and prime minister, with the rakyat and Umno members voting in his favour from Padang Besar, Perlis to Pulau Sebatik at the far reaches of Malaysia’s eastern most state Sabah.
Invoking his roots yet again, he quoted a Bugis saying which states that one does not change courses “even if waves rise as high as the mountain, the sky ravaged by thunderstorms or the earth splits into two”.
Earlier, he flaunted his ancestry by saying that a Bugis seafarer will not turn his vessel, the pinisi (photo), around even in the thick of a thunderstorm.
He said this while saying he will not surrender to attacks and will continue the work of a transparent government, after presenting the Economic Transformation Programme annual report.
Mahathir has undermined Najib’s credibility in multiple blog posts and speeches, at one point saying that we cannot love someone to the extent that we forgive their involvement in murder .
Mahathir said this while saying that he loves Najib, and had helped Najib in his career out of a debt of gratitude to Najib's father, second PM Abdul Razak Hussein.
Although he said he was speaking in general terms, Mahathir’s remarks touches a nerve with Najib whose bodyguards were convicted of murdering a Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu in 2006.
Najib was dragged into the case when his associate Abdul Razak Baginda was charged, but later acquitted, of abetment to the murder.
In response to Mahathir questioning who murdered Altantuya, Najib said he has taken a religious oath that he does not know the woman.
Mahathir also questioned the handling of state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd, which raked up a debt of RM42 billion.