Thursday, October 9, 2008

Abdullah Not Defending Post As Umno President

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 8 (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will not defend his post as Umno president and will step down as Prime Minister in March next year.

Abdullah announced that he would not be defending the president's post at the party's general assembly in March after chairing the BN supreme council meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre here, Wednesday.

He said he would also relinquish the premiership of the country to Najib after the assembly.

Under the country's system, the Umno president is traditionally also the prime minister and BN chairman.

This means that the transition of power to Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, which was previously fixed for June 2010, will take place more than a year earlier.

The Umno supreme council, at a special meeting recently, decided to postpone the party's general assembly, originally scheduled for December, to March next year to speed up the power transition process.

Abdullah said in all his years of public service spanning over 45 years, he had always been guided by his conscience.

"I have always placed the interest of the nation above all else. It is with this in mind that I announce that I will not stand for the presidency of Umno. I do not want a divided party and governing coalition but one that is united and harmonious.

"A united Barisan Nasional is vital for the country to face the global challenges and for Malaysia to become a fully developed nation, with prosperity and fairness for all."

Abdullah said there were several initiatives that he intended to see through before he left office.

"These initiatives are important because they are necessary to move the country forward, and are also needed to regain the country's competitiveness," he added.

Elaborating on his plans before stepping down, Abdullah said he fully intended to see through his mission and hoped that his successor would carry on this agenda.

"I want to hand over to my successor a Malaysia that is capable of weathering the challenges of a dangerous global economy, a Malaysia not of rich and poor, of young and old or of the city or the kampung, not of South and North and not of one religion or another, but of unity and harmony.

"This is not the time for infighting and narrow politics but for greatness, unity and cooperation," he said.

He also promised that in the next five months he would continue reform of the judiciary by setting up an independent Judicial Appointments Commission, which would propose judicial appointments in a transparent and merit-based manner.

Abdullah, in asking all Malaysians to unite and join him towards making Malaysia a better place, said that by end of the year he would table the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Bill in Parliament as a continued effort to eradicate corruption effectively.

He also intended to complete the establishment of a Special Complaints Commission to enhance the integrity and effectiveness of enforcement agencies, as part of various efforts to reform and strengthen Malaysian institutions.

He also promised to set up a commission to promote national integration of the various races in the country.

Abdulah said he would like to see the government and Barisan Nasional renew their commitment towards building a united and harmonious nation.

"Society has seen an alarming decline in inter-racial and inter-religious relations. Various issues have cropped up which threaten to tear the very fabric of Malaysian life.

"We need to tackle these issues head-on, through dialogue; deal with the issues constructively and even-handedly; ensure greater clarity and certainty for the people; and focus on the point that will unite us, rather than the points that divide us."

In this regard, he said, he would convene a BN Convention early next year as a long-term effort to kick-start and continue towards this initiative.

On the economy, Abdullah said he had long spoken about the need to ensure that the fruits of growth would be equally distributed.

In the 2009 Budget he said he had explained the government's comitment to strengthening and enlarging the social safety net.

"We will speed up work on this front to help poor and disadvantaged Malaysians, regardless of background, race or religion. I will also work to ensure that tangible results can begin to be enjoyed in Iskandar as well as the development corridor initiatives around the country," he said.

Abdullah said that despite the country's successful track record for the past few years, he had firmly believed that Malaysia was standing at an historic crossroads.

"We must reform some element of our nation, we must evolve and mature, or we risk losing all that we have gained over 50 years," he said.

He stressed that Malaysians needed to be united more than ever before during this time of reform and transformation.

Meanwhile, answering questions from the media, Abdullah said he had no regret about having adopted a more liberal approach to the many issues as he believed that it would benefit the people.

"I have no regret for what I have done, how the people react and respond to that... it doesn't matter what they think.

"I always believe that there should be more space for democratic discourse. This has been my belief all the while; I've made this known in the 2004 election manifesto," he said when asked whether he regretted some of his decisions to open up discourse on many issues.

The prime minister also said that he was feeling "all right" as the BN was still leading the government.

"I believe the government will be able to remain strong until we face the next general election. Whenever that may be, God willing, we will win," he said.

Abdullah, who looked jovial and smiled a lot, also dismissed claims that he had been forced out by other leaders.

"I know that I had not done well enough during the election. I think until somebody takes over, we need a new generation of leaders. I think there's nothing wrong with that," he said.

He added that he made the decision based on his love for Umno and BN.

To another question, Abdullah said he would discuss with Najib the handing over of the prime minister's post after the Umno General Assembly in March.

"At some stage I will have to hand over the post to my successor. Who is my successor? I hope (he will be) Datuk Seri Mohd Najib.

"You know why I said 'hope'? Because he's standing for (party) election, otherwise it's okay. But I believe he can win.

"After Datuk Najib has become the president, and I hope he will be the president, then we will discuss about it," said Abdullah.

To a question whether other component leaders accepted Najib as his successor, Abdullah said they did.

"They accepted it. It's their decision, no persuasion from me. I did not say anything," he said.

Asked what he would do if there were still Umno divisions wanting to nominate him for the presidency, Abdullah said, "I've made my decision. If they still nominate (me), there's nothing I can do; I've already told them my decision."


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