Dr M goes against doctor's advice to attend assembly

Mahathir is the country's longest serving premier, having been in power for 22 years before retiring in late 2003.

KUALA LUMPUR - There was a mad media crush around Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who had apparently gone against his doctor's advice to attend the opening of the Umno general assembly.

The former Umno president declined to speak to the media and kept saying, "I am not well," as he made his way to his car as security personnel tried to keep the crowd from knocking him down.

Despite his frail health, he was walking so fast that reporters had to jog to keep up with him while Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali followed some distance behind him.

Pressed for his view on Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's policy speech, he would only say: "It's about solidarity."

He stopped several times to greet diplomats who had waited along the red carpet for him.

The Kedah funnyman in him, however, came out when he caught a glimpse of his old classmate from his schooldays, Tan Sri Hanafiah Hussein, who was also unwell and wearing a face mask.

"Who is this, I don't know him," he said in jest as they shook hands.

Another former Umno president Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi left even earlier and also declined to speak to the media.

Dr Mahathir's attendance had been the subject of speculation after he declared that he had withdrawn his support for Najib.

His plans to leave for abroad had to be cancelled after he came down with a cough.

His latest posting in his Chedet blog had urged Umno delegates to criticise their leaders so that they would not continue doing the wrong things.