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Ahmad Ismail’s remark not reflective of Umno’s stand, says PM

PUTRAJAYA, 4 Sept 2008: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi today urged all non-Malays not to regard a recent remark by an Umno division chief which offended the Chinese community as reflective of Umno policy.

He said the remark by Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Datuk Ahmad Ismail was a personal opinion which did not reflect the party’s stand.

Ahmad, at a ceramah in the run-up to the 26 Aug Permatang Pauh by-election, had said the Chinese community were mere immigrants in the country and, thus, were not entitled to equal rights.

Abdullah said because Umno was like a family with many members, it was possible for various opinions to be raised though, at times, unintentionally.

“What he (Ahmad) said does not represent the voice of Umno members, does not represent the party’s stand. Umno has always subscribed to discussion and cooperation among the component parties [of the Barisan Nasional].

“It (the remark) referred to the arrival of the non-Malays in the past, the position at that time and how it changed following discussions and the demand for independence after putting in place the social contract,” he told reporters after chairing a meeting of the National Finance Council at the Finance Ministry.

Abdullah was asked to comment on the calls for Ahmad to apologise for his remark which drew negative response and prompted Deputy Prime Minister and Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Razak to apologise openly on the party’s behalf.

The prime minister said Umno subscribed strongly to discussion and close cooperation among the BN component parties and, though there might be shortcomings which had to be rectified, the fundamental question was the sincerity of component party leaders in playing their role.

“Surely, no one knows this. If there was a spy camera, people would be surprised and reassured as to the sincerity that goes into the discussions on any matter including this one, which was also discussed at the Cabinet meeting,” he said.

Abdullah said Najib’s apology on Umno’s behalf was appropriate but the community still wanted an apology from Ahmad himself to clear the air.

“Datuk (Seri) Najib has said the right thing but they also want Mat (Ahmad) Ismail to apologise. So, I’m trying to get [in touch with] him. I have yet to do so. The media is also trying to get him, I know that.

“He can say that it was not his intention (to utter the remark) but the trouble is the words have already been uttered,” Abdullah said.

He said Ahmad would come forward to make a statement because there was no place for him to hide.

“Where is he to go… I am sure to meet him when I go to Penang,” Abdullah said. — Bernama

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