KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been formally appointed as Barisan Nasional chairman, taking over from Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who has retired.
Leaders of 13 of the 14 Barisan component parties present at the coalition’s supreme council meeting in Putra World Trade Centre yesterday unanimously endorsed the Prime Minister as the coalition chief. Strife-torn Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS) was not represented.
Speaking to reporters after chairing the meeting, Abdullah said he was happy and gratified by the support of all Barisan component parties.
“I am thankful for the support and the unanimous decision to appoint me as chairman of Barisan Nasional in accordance with Article 7 (3) (a) of its constitution,” he said.
Abdullah, however, said the supreme council did not discuss the appointment of a Barisan deputy chairman, a post he held under the chairmanship of Dr Mahathir and reserved for the Deputy Prime Minister.
“No, the matter was not discussed,” he said when asked if the supreme council raised the question during the meeting.
Asked to comment on claims by the opposition that the reason he delayed naming the Deputy Prime Minister was because he did not trust any of the candidates, Abdullah laughed and said:
“They can say anything they want but I will take my time to decide,” he said, adding that he could name a deputy before or after the general election.
Yesterday’s Barisan supreme council meeting was the first chaired by Abdullah since he became the country’s fifth Prime Minister on Nov 1.
The meeting also saw, for the first time, representatives of Barisan Wanita and Barisan Youth. Umno Wanita chief Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz represented the women’s wing, while Umno Youth chief Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein represented Barisan Youth.
Asked if he was pleased with ties among Barisan component parties and its leaders, barring the spat between MIC and the People’s Progressive Party recently, Abdullah said that ties between all the component parties had been excellent.
He said he was particularly impressed by the response of the rakyat to his statement that they should work with and not for him and the Government.
“We are all working together to ensure the country continues to develop and progress,” he said.
He said that all Barisan component parties were prepared to face the next general election.
Abdullah said the supreme council also unanimously agreed to thank Dr Mahathir for his contributions as leader of the coalition.
He said a committee, headed by Gerakan president Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik, was set up to hold a banquet in Dr Mahathir’s honour after Hari Raya.