by Hafiz Yatim@www.malaysiakini.com
8:47PM Dec 3, 2011
UMNO and Barisan Nasional leader Najib Abdul Razak this evening evaded questions on leaders involved in controversial matters, such as the National Feedlot Corporation scandal.
"Let us handle the matter," Najib said at a press conference after the end of the UMNO Annual General Assembly, when asked about calls by UMNO delegates for action against controversial leaders. "We know how to handle the issue," was the Prime Minister's curt reply.
To questions on the need to resolve doubts faced by the voters from possible controversial issues rising in the coming election, he said, "we will try to resolve any doubts they have. If there is anything to be explained, we will do so. That is why we may take some time to explain the matter and think of the best ways to restore the confidence of the voters in us."
With him at the press conference were his Deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, the three UMNO Vice-Presidents, Wanita chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and Puteri chief Rosnah Shirlin.
Over the last three days of the UMNO AGM, many delegates urged party leaders not to be involved in controversial issues, such as the NFC, as members had a hard time explaining such matters to the people, especially with the general election approaching.
Even vocal Kinabatangan MP Bung Moktar Raden has called for Shahrizat, who is alleged to be involved in the NFC scandal as it is owned by her husband, to resign. This, Bung Mokhtar said, would allow the party to move forward in the election, without the need to carry excess baggage.
Majority of candidates will be new faces
Najib also gave a clear indication that the majority of the candidates who would be contesting in the next general election would be new faces. However, he did not want to give any clue as to the composition of the new candidates.
"This is internal, and I cannot disclose it as I have to discuss with the Deputy President (Muhyiddin) and other component party leaders.There will be new faces and new blood, as we want to project UMNO as a dynamic party that is willing to change", he said.
Najib also said that several UMNO elected representatives have met with him and said they were prepared not contest in the next general election. "I cannot disclose their names, but there are quite a number," he said.
Najib in his presidential address had stressed the need to field winnable candidates and this has been widely received by the party delegates and senior party leaders, who echoed the sentiment during the five-day assembly.
Fate of incumbents depends on their performance
As to the fate of the incumbents, Najib said this would depend on their performance as elected representatives.
"If their performance or rating is good, there is a good chance of keeping them. I cannot say they will remain after two or three terms, but whether they are winnable candidates or not."
He said the next general election would be a stiff test, but the unity, and strength of the party, along with the commitment of the members and their confidence, UMNO and the BN would be successful in facing any adversity.
As to whether there was a need to give advance notice to incumbents on whether they have been chosen again or not, Najib said this could not be too soon or too late.
"At the last minute, it may be a problem, but too early too will not be appropriate." Asked what election result he was looking for, Najib said what was important was a strong government, whether with a simple majority or two-thirds of the House.
'Baiah' a pledge not to sabotage party
As to the bai'ah (pledge), he said it was a pledge that “we will not sabotage the party” and he hoped that this would be so.
On the chances of wresting back states held by Pakatan, Najib said UMNO was confident of winning them back, but it would not underrate the Opposition. "It can be a mistake if we underrate them. What is needed is to prepare our machinery well," he said.
Asked whether he and Muhyiddin would tour the country following the end of the UMNO AGM, he said he and his deputy have already started on this. "Maybe we will round the country again," he said.
Parting Advice from UMNO President
Najib's parting advice to UMNO members was that he hoped they would accept the new faces selected, as when the time came, and that the persons replaced would give way nobly. "What is important is the support of the party to ensure victory."