(Updated 4pm. 28 March 2009)
KUALA LUMPUR, 28 March 2009: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who handed over the Umno presidency to Datuk Seri Najib Razak today, called on party members to safeguard unity and keep family spirit alive.
The prime minister also reminded them not to betray the party, and to cease spreading lies about the leaders.
Stressing the need to maintain the spirit of camaraderie, Abdullah said, only by doing so can the party be strengthened.
“This is important. We want the party to be further strengthened. We must continue to be supporters, to be strong supporters, of the leaders; because by doing so, we are supporting the party through the leaders.
“We should continue to be party supporters and loyal friends of leaders, and remain loyal through thick and thin. This is what camaraderie is all about, this is what family spirit means to our party,” he said in his winding-up speech, his last as the Umno president, at the Umno general assembly here.
Keeping his word on the need to safeguard unity, Abdullah told the delegates that he had forgiven Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
“I would like to say in front of all that I am not angry with Muhyiddin and I have never reacted to what he said.
“Whoever says that ‘Pak Lah is angry with Muhyiddin’ I will reprimand him. And I forgive you (Muhyiddin) for whatever it is that you have done,” said Abdullah amid applause from the delegates and observers.
Muhyiddin had been vocal in calling for reform in the party following the Barisan Nasional’s dismal performance in the 12th general election last year.
He had also called for a leadership change in the party.
In his 20-minute address, Abdullah told party leaders and members that the people were watching the party’s every move as they would like to see a strong and united Umno.
It was therefore important, he said, that party members fully supported the new leadership.
“I believe that this line-up will be able to institute changes in the party and strengthen Umno so that the party remains in the hearts and minds of the people. God willing, Umno will remain the party which champions the interest of the race, religion and country,” he said.
Abdullah said, however, that it was also important for the leaders to support the members.
Abdullah also asked for forgiveness from party members whom he might have offended.
“I am seeking forgiveness from all of you. I want to retire in peace without having to carry with me any ill-feeling,” he said. — Bernama