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Thursday March 20, 2008
By IZATUN SHARI
Rafidah to stay on as Wanita Umno chief
KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz “is surprised” that she was left out of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s Cabinet but she remains firm about leading Wanita Umno.
Rafidah said yesterday there was no reason for her to relinquish the post as she was elected Wanita head during the Umno general assembly.
“I urge Wanita Umno members at all levels to remain calm and accept the decision with an open heart,” she said, adding that members of the wing should help rebuild, strengthen and rejuvenate the party following the poor showing in the general election.
She admitted that it came as a surprise when the Prime Minister told her that she would not be retained on Tuesday morning, saying she accepted the decision with an open heart.
“It’s a surprise because I wish Pak Lah had told me earlier not to contest. It would be easier for me. I would have known that I would not be in the Cabinet. He didn’t say I couldn’t contest.
“I’m a human being. Surely, (since) I had contested, how would I have known that I would be dropped?”
Asked further about how she felt deep down, she said: “Maybe you don’t know me. I am the type of person who does not hold grudges.
“It is Allah’s gift to me. You can do anything to me. I will not hold grudges. I will not hate the person. But in this case it is nothing like that. It is part and parcel of politics. Today, I retire. I have served for 32 years.”
On whether she did not give an immediate reaction because she was sulking, she said: “Don’t bother asking that question. I don’t even sulk with my husband.”
However, Rafidah, who was replaced by Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as International Trade and Industry Minister (MIti) , said she had always thought of retirement during every general election.
“So when he told me, it was not an issue. I just said thank you very much. I wish you all the luck with the new Cabinet.”
Asked is she was sad about the decision, she said: “How can you be sad when you have spent 32 years of your 64 years working for the Government?
“Surely, I would have pride in myself. Not many people lasted that long. I have lasted that long with my little contribution. It’s happiness. I can hold my head high and say that I’ve served with integrity and accountability.
“Muhyiddin sent me an SMS saying: ‘I’m sure you must be very down.’ I replied why should I be down. I’m so happy. I have served so much and now I have so much time.
“The burden is over. I am not down. My goodness. I have my family. My children are surprised why I don’t cry. No. There is nothing to be down about. I go with the feeling that I’ve served. It’s not that I will go to one corner and mope.”
Rafidah also confirmed that she had penned a 16-page letter to the Prime Minister after Barisan Nasional suffered a setback in the election.
However, she declined to reveal the contents of the letter, saying that it was “personal.”
On the absence of Wanita Umno leaders in the new Cabinet, she said she was surprised because it was the first time in history that the movement had no representatives in the Cabinet.
“I am certainly sad and very disappointed. Our members have never seen the scenario where their leaders don’t have a place in the Cabinet,” she said, adding that she was however happy to see Wanita MCA chief Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen being included in the line-up.
Rafidah said it was up to Wanita Umno members if they wanted to submit a protest note to Abdullah.
On whether she would defend her position in the next party elections, she said: “Of course, as long as the women want me. I was elected by them; not self-appointed. If the members want anybody, they will take us. If they don’t want they will drop us. I was dropped at one time.”
On her plans following her retirement from the government, she said: “Syukur alhamdullillah. Maybe this is the time to retire. My grandchildren are very happy because they finally get their grandma back. That put me into perspective. That has given me extra happiness to know that I’m most welcome by my family.”
Commenting on Abdullah naming Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil as his special adviser on women and family matters, she said: “I don’t know about it. You have to ask the person who appointed her.”
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