JEDDAH, March 2 2016 : Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to quit Umno did not come as a surprise.
He also said that it would not divert Umno’s focus from helping to drive national development and ensuring the well-being of the people.
“In Umno, we will proceed with our agenda because we still have much work to do. I hope we will focus on issues that we have to champion so that Umno will be much stronger in facing numerous challenges, particularly in our preparation for the next general election,” he said.
Najib, who is also Umno president, was responding to reporters’ questions on Mahathir’s quitting Umno, in Jeddah Tuesday. Najib is currently on a working visit to Saudi Arabia.
Dr Mahathir announced on Feb 29 that he was quitting Umno, reportedly because he had become disillusioned with the party.
The former prime minister and former Umno president left the party for the first time on May 19, 2008, after reportedly losing confidence in the leadership of prime minister and Umno president at the time, Datuk Seri (now Tun) Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Dr Mahathir rejoined Umno on April 4, 2009, when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak assumed the leadership of the party and country.
Asked whether Dr Mahathir’s quitting Umno would have implications on the party, Najib said: “Most probably not, because the impact is only felt when it is for the first time.
“When it is for the second time, many people will feel that it will not have any impact that can jeopardise Umno’s position.”
Najib was also asked whether Umno was worried other party leaders might also quit Umno.
“It is up to them, but we will make sure that Umno remains strong. This means leaders who are committed to Umno and are with me will continue to strengthen Umno,” he said.
Asked whether Dr Mahathir would be dissuaded from leaving Umno, Najib said that was not an easy task.
“But, we are not a party that rejects him, and I am not a leader who only thinks about my position as alleged because what we must understand is that I was elected through a democratic process that is the most open in the history of Umno.
“That is, 160,000 Umno delegates elected me, not under the old constitution with a lot of restrictions. For example, to contest the president’s post, one must be nominated by 56 divisions.
“The last Umno election was the most open in its history. This means what I have today is the mandate from Umno delegates based on the principles of democracy.”
Najib said he was committed to honouring the mandate he had received from Umno members.
To a question on the statements by Dr Mahathir which many saw as tarnishing the image of the country, he said the former prime minister was not someone who would easily stop what he was doing.
According to Najib, what was most important was to safeguard Umno and the government.
“Secondly, we must show that whatever is done by anyone, including Tun (Dr Mahathir), will not divert our attention from our main agenda, which is to continue developing the country including our economy,” he said.
Najib also said that in the current challenging economic situation, the government would ensure that it did not neglect the well-being of the people. – Bernama