Wednesday, October 8, 2008


PM to quit next March
Abdullah won’t contest Umno Presidency; to hand power to Najib earlier


Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will step down next March and hand over power to his Deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak, ending months of uncertainty since the general election debacle in March. Abdullah, 68, announced he would not defend his post as Umno President at the Party’s General Assembly in March after chairing the BN Supreme Council meeting at the Putra World Trade Centre here yesterday. He said he would also relinquish the Premiership of the country to Najib after the Party’s assembly. “I will hand over power to Najib after he wins the election at the General Assembly. I am sure he will win,” Abdullah said, calling on the Party to halt months of destructive bickering. 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 Najib, which was previously fixed for June 2010, will take place more than a year earlier. Abdullah has been under intense pressure to quit since leading the Barisan Nasional Coalition to its worst polls performance in half century, losing a third of parliamentary seats and five States to the Opposition. 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 leaves 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 said. Abdullah came to power in 2003 and was initially buoyed by a groundswell of support for his promises of reform after two decades of hardline rule under veteran Premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. However, he was quickly seen as weak and ineffective after failing to tackle corruption, high crime rates and inefficient bureaucracy which he had vowed to address. Elaborating on his plans before stepping down, Abdullah said he fully intends to see through his mission and hopes 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 kampong; 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 continuing effort to eradicate corruption effectively. He also intends 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. Abdullah 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 dialogues; deal with the issues constructively and even-handedly; ensure greater clarity and certainty for the people; and focus on the points 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 are equally distributed. In the 2009 Budget he said he had explained the Government’s commitment 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,” said. According to him, despite the country’s successful track record for the past few years, Malaysia is standing at an historic crossroads. “We must reform some elements 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. — Bernama, AFP.