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Abdullah “Father of Democracy,” says Koh

KUALA LUMPUR, 11 Oct 2008: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should be remembered as Malaysia’s “Father of Democracy”, suggested Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon.

Koh described the outgoing prime minister as “an advocate for democracy” because he had opened up space for expression, was committed to fighting corruption and to raising living standards for the poor. 

Koh (left) says Abdullah has opened up space for expression
“As prime minister, Abdullah has initiated reforms for good governance and promoted commitment to integrity. He will be remembered as the father of democracy,” Koh said when opening Gerakan’s 37th National Delegates Conference at Menara PGRM today.

Abdullah, his deputy Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and other Barisan Nasional component party leaders were also present. Former Gerakan president and now party adviser Tun Dr Lim Keng Yaik was also present.

Koh also said Abdullah was a democratic person because he accepted the results of the 8 March 2008 general election “with an open heart”.

“He did not try to change or deny the people’s decision,” said Koh.

At a press conference later, Abdullah was asked if he would abolish the Internal Security Act (ISA) as part of his legacy before leaving office after March according to the transition plan with Najib.

Abdullah said: “I’m not out to create legacies for myself. I’ve said before that this (abolishing the ISA) has to be looked at carefully. At the moment, I want to concentrate on reforms.”

Abdullah had on 8 Oct, when announcing his decision to step down as Umno president in March and by extension, cease to be the prime minister, said he had a list of reforms to implement before leaving office. 

These included bills to be tabled in Parliament on the Judicial Appointments Commission, an independent Anti-Corruption Agency, and a Special Complaints Commission to handle grouses about law enforcement officers.

Koh in his speech earlier said reforms should continue after the leadership transition and affirmed Gerakan’s support for Najib to continue such the work.

“Reforms should lead to greater ethnic and religious harmony, higher economic growth, less corruption and a lower crime rate,” Koh said.

Koh also called for the ISA to be replaced with a law specifically on terrorism and armed violence.

“The ISA has been abused and is a liability to the government. We call for the release of all detainees not involved in terrorism and those with health problems.”

He also called for the Printing Presses and Publications Act to be abolished. The act requires newspapers to renew their publishing permits yearly. Koh said the act was “irrelevant now in the borderless world of the internet.”

He also said the Universities and University Colleges Act was out-of-date and should be amended to allow students to join political parties as ordinary members, but not as office bearers or to stand for elections.

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