by Surin Murugiah
KUALA LUMPUR: The Umno leadership handover must be a careful and smooth process, as a rushed transition could result in factions within the party, said the party’s deputy president and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Najib said Umno must be given the time to strengthen itself, as decisions taken rashly could result in two or even three factions within the party.
Asked if there were factions now within the party, Najib said: “I am not saying that there are factions now. If there was a struggle for the leadership, there would be factions within the party. It happened in 1987 and during the crisis with (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim.”
He added that Umno and the Barisan Nasional (BN) had been weakened after the recent general election. “If we do it at this time, it might create factions and this could create problems for Umno and the BN government,” he told reporters here yesterday.
Commenting on the latest attack by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that Najib was not “brave enough” to directly say anything that was not liked by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, he said:
“It is not a question of being a ‘yes’ man or not being brave. I hold the principle that the best method is by way of a smooth handover or transition of power as this would ensure the party is not affected,” he said.
“If we look at history, we have always had a precedent of (a) proper handover right from the time of Tunku (Abdul Rahman) to Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn to Tun Mahathir, then Tun Mahathir to Datuk Seri Abdullah (Ahmad Badawi). Let’s give it a chance to be done in a proper manner,” he said.
Mahathir was reported as saying that Najib should explain the real reasons for Barisan’s losses in the general election, and that he was not confident about the latter taking over as prime minister.
“We see that he (Najib) is a coward. He is always saying, ‘Yes sir, yes sir, I support, I support,’” Mahathir was quoted as saying.
The former prime minister said it depended upon Umno to appoint the person to be prime minister and that Najib would have to face competition from others such as Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Rais Yatim.
Mahathir was also quoted as saying that if Abdullah were to step down now, it would pave the way for a smooth transition, as Najib would succeed him in accordance with Umno tradition.
Najib was speaking to reporters after witnessing a ceremony yesterday in which the Ministry of Defence signed contracts, and awarded letters of acceptance and intent to several local companies worth a total of RM1.13 billion.
To a separate question on former Gerakan deputy secretary-general Datuk Lee Kah Choon’s appointment as director of Invest-Penang and Penang Development Corporation, Najib said in principle, the BN did not encourage its members to work with the opposition.
“We want to see what is the stand of the party,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the defence contracts signed by the government, Najib clarified that the agreements were not to buy new systems or equipment but extensions of existing contracts.
He also stressed that the contracts involving Malaysian companies were part of an effort to encourage greater local participation, citing the example of DRB-Hicom Bhd unit DRB-Hicom Defence Technologies Sdn Bhd assembling armoured vehicles at its dedicated plant in Pekan, Pahang.
“This ensures that a substantial amount from the contracts goes to local companies as well as creating jobs for Malaysians,” he said. 22-04-2008: Rushed transition could result in Umno factions, warns Najib