Thursday, October 09, 2008


MALAYSIA'S prime minister said on Thursday he does not care how people remember him after he quits in March, insisting his goal now is to speed up the economic and administrative reforms he started four years ago.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose term expires in 2013, announced on Wednesday he will step down before time to prevent a split in his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party.

The party is facing its worst crisis in history after a dismal performance in a general election in March.

Datuk Seri Abdullah, who was blamed for the losses, initially resisted pressure from party members to resign but gave in when it became clear that he could be ousted during party leadership elections in March.

'I don't think I need to talk about people remembering me,' Datuk Seri Abdullah told reporters when asked if he was concerned about his legacy. 'If they want to remember, they will remember. If they don't, they don't. I am not working with the view ... that I am doing this because people will remember me.'

Datuk Seri Abdullah said he will not defend his position as Umno president in the party elections. Instead, the post will be contested by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib, who is expected to win unopposed. The party's president automatically becomes the prime minister.

Datuk Seri Abdullah said his mission during the next five months is to continue with the reforms he started with much fanfare when he took office in late 2003. But his pledges to eradicate corruption, improve the bureaucracy and restore confidence in the judiciary have borne little fruit.

'I believe my mission is to provide dynamic movement to emphasize on development and human capital,' he said, adding that he wanted to improve educational standards, reduce the income gaps and establish a mechanism to resolve religious disputes that break out frequently in this multiethnic nation.

Datuk Seri Abdullah said he also wants to provide more democratic space for divergent views to be heard openly.

His record on this is mixed. Although Datuk Seri Abdullah is credited with allowing taboo subjects like race and religion to be discussed openly, his administration recently jailed a prominent anti-government blogger under a law that allows indefinite detention without trial.

The same law has been used to jail five ethnic Indian activists who led a massive anti-government protest last year.

Datuk Seri Abdullah refused to say if he will take on any advisory role in the government after resigning, but said he will remain the chief of a party division in the northern state of Penang.

News n picture courtesy of Singapore Straits Times thru AP