(Updated 9:04pm, 27 March 2009)
KUALA LUMPUR, 27 March 2009: Datuk Shahrir Samad, who lost in the contest for the Umno supreme council seat in party elections yesterday, said he will tender his resignation as the domestic trade and consumer affairs minister on 1 April.
Shahrir said today that his decision was final. He is one of several ministers who lost in the party elections, but the first to offer his resignation.
“It’s a matter of principle. If someone who is holding a ministerial post is not supported by party delegates to become a supreme council member, the person should resign from the post,” said Shahrir, who is the Johor Baru Umno division chief.
Shahrir said he would step down from the post at the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday (1 April), the day the power transition between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Datuk Seri Najib Razak would take place.
It would be difficult for him to discharge his ministerial duties without party support, he added.
“We should hold on to our principles. Especially in politics, our job will become easier if we have the moral high ground.
“If we are not strong and [are] not supported by the party, we won’t be able to face the administrative machinery, the people and the opposition when discharging our duties.
“For instance, as a Member of Parliament, we need to attend Parliament session. How are we going to answer questions confidently if we are not supported by our own party?” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Umno general assembly at Putra World Trade Centre here.
Shahrir said: “People will then say that this YB (people’s representative) is not supported by his own party, so how [can be] become a minister?”
Shahrir, 60, said the decision to resign following his defeat in party elections was not something new.
In the 2004 party elections, three cabinet ministers who failed to get elected as supreme council members had also resigned from their respective posts.
He said that such principles should be defended and kept alive to show that Umno leaders were not only after party posts.
Shahrir said he could have chosen not to contest as his appointment as cabinet minister was the prerogative of the prime minister but decided to contest nevertheless to get the endorsement from party members to sit in the party’s highest decision making body.
The ministerial post, he said, belonged to the people and if there were others who can serve the people through the post, then it should be given to them.
Shahrir said that when he was appointed to the post, the problem of inflation had just started.
“I’ve done my best. My time as a cabinet minister is up. To me, others should be given the opportunity. If I don’t quit, I will deprive others of the opportunity to serve,” said Shahrir.
He would remain as the Johor Baru MP.
Responding to questions about the propriety of Shahrir announcing his resignation, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Utama Rais Yatim, who lost in his bid for one of the three vice-president posts at the Umno MT elections, explained that this was in line with the “principle of collective responsibility”.
Rais explained that the entirety of the current cabinet was obliged to step down with the Prime Minister. “This would be the ideal situation,” Rais told The Nut Graph on the sidelines of the party’s general assembly.
“When a prime minister resigns all his ministers are deemed to have resigned. This is the conventional interpretation of the Westminster system,” Rais added.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said Shahrir should officially tender his resignation as the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister.
Abdullah said that as of now, Shahrir was still a minister.
“If he wants to resign, he has to tender his resignation letter officially,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Umno general assembly here today.
Asked to comment on Shahrir’s statement that he would resign from the post following his defeat in party elections, Abdullah said no one forced Shahrir to make the decision.
“That is his choice and he has given the reason why he wants to resign,” he said. — Bernama