Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today the Barisan Nasional (BN) has decided that a local from Umno would be fielded as candidate for the Bukit Gantang parliamentary by-election.

The deputy prime minister said the candidate would be from among those who were actively involved at the divisional level and accepted by the people.

The decision should put a stop to any speculation that the BN would field an outsider, he said.

Najib, who is Umno deputy president, made the announcement after chairing a Perak BN closed-door meeting at the state Umno headquarters here to discuss the preparation for the by-election as well as the latest development in the newly-formed BN state government.

The by-election on April 7 is called following the death of incumbent member of parliament Roslan Shaharum, 50, of PAS on Feb 9 due to a heart attack. The nomination day is on March 29.

Replying to queries from reporters, Najib said the main criteria for the BN candidate was that the person must be a local and acceptable to all.

“We have a long list as well as a short list (of names). We will decide on the name later.

“We still have the time to make assessment as the by-election is still a long way to go. We will do the necessary preparation,” he said.

The question whether the BN would field a local or an outsider has been a contentious issue following claims that BN’s defeat in the area, traditionally a BN stronghold, in the 12th general election was due to the decision to field an outsider.

Former Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali has also asked the BN “to learn from its mistake” and respect the wishes of the locals.

Besides Tajol Rosli, Bukit Gantang Umno division chief Datuk Rosli Husin had also had called on the party to field a local.

In the March 8 general election, BN fielded Umno treasurer Datuk Seri Azim Mohd Zabidi while Gerakan Wanita chief Datuk Tan Lian Hoe won the seat in the 2004 general election.

On the new BN state government, Najib said the priority now was to fulfil the people’s needs and aspirations.

“The new government must care for the interest of all communities… this is a government for all and this is also the BN’s policy,” he said.

BN took over the state government and sworn in Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as the new Menteri Besar after the Pakatan state government lost its majority in the state legislative assembly when four of its assembly members quit their respective parties and supported the BN.

Najib said the BN should also give priority to unity and the spirit of consensus among the people.

He said the interest of individuals or component parties should be set aside to enable the new administration to face challenges.

Najib, who is Perak Umno liaison chief, later chaired the Perak Umno closed-door meeting.