Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi says that this is not the time to create any political upheaval in the country or do anything to destabilise society.
“This is a time that we must cooperate. We must understand each other,” he said on the “World Business” programme televised on CNBC last night when asked what should be done in the light of the global economic uncertainty and the power transition in the country.
Responding to a question by journalist Eckart Sager on the programme that Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had promised many times to have enough parliamentary defectors to bring down the government and that perhaps it was time that both the government and the Opposition called for a truce, Abdullah said Anwar had so far been telling a pack of lies.
He added: “Anwar has been telling the whole world that he could get a number of my members of parliament to cross over to his side and by so doing we would fall and he would form a new government.
“But he has never succeeded and he has been telling what today is just lies and lies and lies. And I don’t understand why he must persist in this.”
The prime minister said so much was needed to be done in the country where there would be an opportunity for young leaders to emerge after the power transition.
“A transition that I promise will be one that is peaceful, one that is very democratic and certainly will ensure continuity of whatever we’ve been doing so far,” he said in reference to his intention not to contest the Umno presidency and hand over power to his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Asked on what led him to make up his mind to retire in March next year, Abdullah said he had served the government in various capacities for the past 45 years and now that he was nearing 70 years old, he thought that it was about time to make way for the new and young leaders emerging in Umno.
“We need to ensure that the party continues to remain relevant and the party must plan for its future.
“I have left to them a certain number of strategies and also the national mission, which I believe will be able to propel the development of growth, (and provide) sustainable growth paths for the future,” he explained.
When asked about his agenda for reforms and what he could possibly do over the next five months, Abdullah said, “I wanted to reform; people liked the idea of reform. I was not just responding to them because they need reform.”
The prime minister said that he too certainly thought that the country’s judiciary, police force and Anti-Corruption Agency needed reforms.
“I was not able to do it for the first four years (while in power); I was able to do it only after we had already been returned to power after the last election. So I want this reform in place and I can do it. Even in five months.”
Abdullah said he had also introduced policies for an enlarged social safety net that he would be launching soon.
“Now this is to ensure equitable distribution of income and we want to make sure that we must have a new deal for the poor people, for the lower income people,” he said.
Asked whether this was an appropriate time for him to step down now that the global financial crisis had taken its grip on a number of countries and how was Malaysia positioning itself amid the crisis, Abdullah said Malaysia’s position was strong as the country had diversified its markets so as not to be too dependent on the US market.
“We have developed other markets that are profitable to us, we have also undertaken other measures also to strengthen our economy.
“So the economy, I would like to say, is very strong fundamentally and is resilient. So it doesn’t matter if I go at this time and let the new generation take over,” he said.
When asked what challenges and responsibilities that Najib, his intended successor, would face after taking over, Abdullah said there were the economy and national unity, especially issues related to race and religion.
“We must make sure that Malaysia will always enjoy unity,” he stressed.
During the interview, Abdullah also said that the government had been emphasising on developing human capital, which he regarded as the country’s assets.
“If we are going to go into the future, we must have Malaysians who are well-educated with first class mentality and at the same time determined and confident of the future and also able to provide leadership to the government as well as to the private sector,” he said, adding that the government’s business-friendly policy would continue even after he stepped down.