KUALA LUMPUR, 8 Oct 2008: Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders praised Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s resolve to finish key reforms despite not defending his post as Umno president.
Abdullah, who told the BN supreme council today that he would not contest the party polls in March, said he would use his remaining time as prime minister to institute reforms in the judiciary, the Anti-Corruption Agency, the special commission to handle complaints on law enforcement agencies, to strengthen racial harmony, and to further eradicate poverty.
Ong described today’s meeting as historicMCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said Abdullah’s commitment to reform would augur well for the whole BN in showing the people that the coalition was serious about change.
“We are impressed that even though Abdullah will not stay on as Umno president and BN chairperson, he still has the desire to continue efforts to bring change and reforms. It shows the BN will be serious about bringing change that can win back the rakyat’s confidence after the 8 March elections where voters sent a message that they were dissatisfied with the government,” Ong said after the meeting.
Ong also described today’s meeting as “historic” in that all the BN component members were given a chance to hear from the Umno president before he made public his decision.
“We value the respect he has given us,” Ong said.
United Pasokmomogun Kadazandusun Organisation (Upko) president Tan Sri Bernard Dompok agreed.
“Upko is touched that the prime minister has chosen to meet with the BN before announcing his decision, which means he takes into account the interest of BN as a whole.
“I think that one of the greatest legacies of Abdullah is the openness he has created in Malaysia,” Dompok said.
Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin described Abdullah’s decision as a “big sacrifice” that showed he placed the interests of Umno and the BN above himself.
“It is not easy to give up leadership. I think he took everything into account, placing the party and the coalition above all other personal interests,” said the International Trade and Industry Minister, who has his own ambitions of contesting a top posts.
Muhyiddin said he would announce the post he would go for on 10 Oct. Prior to this he has said he would state his ambitions only after Abdullah announces his decision on the party presidency.
Mohd Ali says Abdullah has a big heart Another vice-president, Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said Abdullah had a “big heart” in order to give up the party presidency.
“I think he did it for the sake of the party’s future and the country. I also hope that all divisions and party members will give their full and undivided support to Datuk Seri Najib Razak as successor,” Mohd Ali said.
People’s Progressive Party president Datuk M Kayveas said he was expecting a contest for the Umno presidency and was keen to see who Abdullah would hand over the coutry’s premiership to.
“The way I see it, I think there’s going to be a contest for the Umno president’s post. Whoever is taking over, that is whom Abdullah will hand things over to,” Kayveas said.
Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said he was impressed with the sincerity of Abdullah’s decision and commitment to reforms.
“He wants to implement the changes that he has promised which are important to make our national institutions stronger and have more integrity,” Koh said.
Parti Bersatu Sabah president Datuk Seri Joseph Pairin Kitingan said he hoped Abdullah’s decision would give the BN new strength to win in the next general election with a bigger majority. He was also pleased that Abdullah had promised that his successor would continue with policies for development and poverty eradication in Sabah.
Meanwhile in PUTRAJAYA, Bernama reports Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as saying he was surprised at the announcement. The former prime minister said he had thought Abdullah would not be stepping down as Umno president and prime minister, but was glad he was wrong.
“I am happy for Umno as the party can be rebuilt,” he said when reporters met him at the Perdana Leadership Foundation, here.
Dr Mahathir who has been vocal in asking Abdullah to step down since the 8 March general election, hoped Abdullah would not put in place any restriction and obstruction during the transition period.