Umno chiefs split on pace of leadership change
Friday, 19 September 2008 10:12am
©The Malaysian Insider (Used by permission)CommentarySEPT 19 — He was sparing with his words but Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s body language at the post-Umno supreme council press conference told a different story.It conveyed a clear message that he was seriously reconsidering his two-year transition plan. It suggested that he did not have it all his way during a relatively short meeting of the party’s highest decision-making body.And he didn’t.The Malaysian Insider understands that his most persistent critic in the party — Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin — led the charge by asking Abdullah to hand over power to Datuk Seri Najib Razak as soon as possible, arguing that the situation on the ground made it difficult for the former to continue as party president and prime minister.He was polite but forceful in making his case. Council members said that Abdullah was calm as he listened to the man he appointed as Minister of International Trade and Industry after the March 8 general election.Muhyiddin’s predecessor at the ministry, the combative Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz, was more aggressive in asking Abdullah to consider a quicker transition of power.Her choice of words and tone did not go down well with several council members who later complained that while her forum for venting her frustration was correct, her manner of delivery was wholly inappropriate.Datuk Shafie Apdal rounded up the band of critics at yesterday’s council meeting. He did not make specific demands of the PM, but urged him to consider the situation on the ground and listen to what party members in the divisions wanted.He noted that there was restlessness among Umno members and this indicated that they wanted a faster handover of power. Shafie later told his friends and Umno members that he wanted to be as honest as possible with a leader he loved without disrespecting him.Leading the defence of Abdullah and the transition plan was Najib as well as Kelantan Umno liaison chief Datuk Seri Annuar Musa, Negri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Mohamed Hassan and several other council members.Hearing both sides, Abdullah made it clear that he had his ears close to the ground and would discuss with Najib if there was to be any change to the transition plan.Umno divisions begin their meetings from Oct 9 to Nov 9. Nominations for senior positions in the ruling party would be made then.Between now and then, Abdullah will be monitoring ground sentiment. If the voices of dissent and opposition from within the ruling party get louder, the PM will have little choice but to cut short his stay at the top.