PENANG, March 30 (Bernama) -- Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says the Malays will be made use of by foreign powers if they choose Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister.
Describing Anwar as a "a man of many parts", he said Anwar had a glib tongue and hence could draw the attention of people from different groups and backgrounds.
"When he talks about Islam, Muslims will think he's a champion of Islam. He's also good at talking to the kampung (village) folk and also to those at temples.
"We know the west believes that Anwar will become prime minister in the near future. They can then lead him by the nose," said Dr Mahathir during a question-and-answer session after he opened the annual general meeting of Persatuan Melayu Tanjong (Penang Malays Association) here Sunday.
Someone in the audience had asked him about western media reports that Anwar would soon become Malaysia's prime minister.
"If the Malays are willing to kowtow to the foreigners, then they can choose this person (Anwar). I am sorry... he had maligned me all over the world, accusing me of arresting him and throwing him in jail," Dr Mahathir said.
Later at a press conference, he said the nomination quota system for an Umno member to contest a top party post was maintained during his party presidency to ensure that only those who qualified contested and not for personal interest.
Under the system, the party constitution's provision which stipulates that a candidate must secure nominations from at least 60 divisions in order to contest the president's post, was introduced after Dr Mahathir was challenged by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in 1987 and he (Dr Mahathir) retained the post with a majority of 43 votes.
Since then, the practice of not challenging the top party post has become a tradition.
Dr Mahathir said: "What was my interest then? I did not only win at that time but I had also won the top post uncontested many times.
"We did all that because if we didn't, some would do a Sulaiman Palestin, who had little support but contested the top post."
Dr Mahathir said when he was helming Umno, getting nominations from 60 divisions was not a problem.
He said this was proven when Anwar challenged Tun Ghafar Baba for the deputy president's post, whereby Anwar got many nominations... more than 30 percent as at that time there was no "control".
On this point, Dr Mahathir was responding to newspaper reports quoting Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as saying that he as a member of the party's Constitution Committee had brought before Dr Mahathir a grassroots proposal for lifting the 30 percent requirement.
However, Dr Mahathir had asked him to leave it as it was and this, said Muhyiddin, was mainly due to the fact that Dr Mahathir was the president and that the ruling would undermine any challenge to his presidency.
Dr Mahathir explained that the quota system was maintained at that time to ensure that party elections were treated as a serious matter, therefore the candidates must be serious or qualified enough to contest to avoid wasting time as the election process took a lot of time.