05 April, 2008

Give Abdullah a chance to put things right

A responsible leader will not falter when faced with a crisis but instead face reality and seek solutions to the challenges at hand, said Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.

"To me, a leader who quits in the face of challenges is someone who has no sense of responsibility. However, Pak Lah is a very responsible person.

"He won't desert a sinking ship and tell his deputy to take over and bring things back to normal."

Nazri yesterday said Abdullah should be given a chance to put things right in Umno in the aftermath of the elections, as Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was given the same chance when he faced a similar predicament.

According to Nazri, when Barisan Nasional lost Kelantan in the 1990 elections and Kelantan and Terengganu in 1999, no one demanded that Dr Mahathir resign to take responsibility for the losses.
"In fact, we (Umno leaders and members) said the losses were our collective responsibility."

He also expressed disappointment with Dr Mahathir and a group of Umno members for openly attacking the prime minister.

"Pas, PKR and DAP are able to sit together to discuss ways to strengthen their electoral pact.

"But in the case of Umno, it seems Dr Mahathir is leading efforts to split the party. I am very disappointed with this.

"If he loves Umno, he must stop these actions that can destroy the party."

Asked about Dr Mahathir's call to scrap Umno's quota system of candidate nominations for party elections, Nazri said it was introduced by Dr Mahathir himself after his narrow victory over Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for the Umno president's post in 1987.

"I feel because Umno's next elections will be held in December, it would be better to stick to the existing system. We can think about it after that.

"It is unfair for Dr Mahathir to call for the system to be abolished because it was he who asked for it."

On allegations by Dr Mahathir that Abdullah was being surrounded by "yes men", Nazri said Dr Mahathir had forgotten that few dared to oppose him when he was Umno president and prime minister.

Meanwhile, Information Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek suggested that Dr Mahathir be careful when making public statements.

The debacle that saw Umno being declared illegal in 1988 during the leadership of former prime minister and Umno president Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should not be allowed to be repeated.

"I feel it would be appropriate if Tun (Dr Mahathir) exercised more caution in making statements because we don't want the demise, destruction and de-registration of Umno that occurred during his leadership to be repeated,"

Ahmad Shabery said during the former prime minister's leadership, many regulations were imposed, including a resolution that there should be no contest for the president and deputy president's posts.
"There was no contest (for the president's and deputy president's posts) after 1987 but now he is saying it is undemocratic. The Malays have not forgotten all these things but maybe Dr Mahathir has forgotten.

"I am sad to bring up these things but the openness in Pak Lah's era should not be taken advantage of."

At one time, he said, Umno supreme council members couldn't even be challenged in their divisions.

Division chiefs in Kelantan also couldn't be opposed when Dr Mahathir was the state Umno liaison head, he said.

Ahmad Shabery added that the former Umno president had also reminded delegates at the Umno general assembly in 1997 that any criticism of the party and its leadership could only be made through party branches, divisions and the supreme council.

"This is because if everyone starts criticising and condemning one another from outside the party, it will destroy the party. I worry if this happens, he (Dr Mahathir) will be the one considered to have destroyed Umno."

On calls to convene an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) to brainstorm Umno's dismal showing in the general election, he said Dr Mahathir should not conclude that grassroots members were angry.

"We will see which branch wants to hold an EGM. Actually, there were no problems with the grassroots during the general election.

"The kampung folk in the agriculture sector were very happy with the high prices of rubber and oil palm. Only people living in urban areas voted against us."

He added that in the 1999 general election, the anger of the grassroots was aimed at Dr Mahathir's leadership. However, he did not step down.

He said more Malay voters rejected Umno and Barisan Nasional in the 1999 general election compared with the March 8 elections.

Ahmad Shabery also said he was disappointed with Dr Mahathir's comments as during his leadership, many Umno leaders were detained under the Internal Security Act as they were seen as threats to national security. In actual fact, they were threats to his leadership.

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