PUTRAJAYA: Former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should be known as the Father of Openness and Democracy, says Tun Musa Hitam.
He said before Abdullah became the fifth prime minister in 2003, “the country and its people and even the institutions were living under pressure”.
“(They were) pressured in terms of psychology, culture and even in their daily lives... everyone could see how democracy was being restricted,” he said.
However, the former deputy prime minister said all this changed when Abdullah took over, adding even the media claimed that things had changed for the better.
Musa also said the freedom experienced during Abdullah’s time was one that had enabled the country to achieve the political maturity that was being seen now.
He was speaking at the launch of a documentary yesterday on Abdullah’s legacy titled “Legasi Negarawan: Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi” and a panel book review of Abdullah’s 2016 book Being Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
The hour-long documentary produced by Primeworks Studio focuses on the journey of Abdullah’s life before and during his administration, and his life in politics.
The book review panel comprised the author, the then The Star group chief editor Datuk Wong Sulong, Universiti Sultan Azlan Shah Tan Sri Prof Dr Nordin Kardi and former National Civics Bureau director-general Datuk Shagul Hamid Abdullah.
Abdullah, fondly known as Pak Lah, replaced Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the top after the latter served 22 years as prime minister.
Speaking after the panel discussion, Musa recalled the time when Abdullah was pressured to vacate his position after Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority in the 2008 general election.
He said he was one of them who advised Abdullah to quit as if he had not done so, he would have been “eaten alive as enemies were after him”.
“I knew their strengths, (the) money and the supporters,” he added.
Musa said it was a blessing that Abdullah chose to leave as Umno was saved, but lamented the destruction of the party by those who had taken over.
Wong, during the panel discussion, said he had chosen the book title as it reflected the personality of the leader.
Wong said Abdullah was not a man who craved for power, nor was he one who wanted to cling on.
“He is a deeply religious and humble man. Ku Cari Damai Abadi, his most famous poem reflects his personal philosophy and world view,” he said.
He added the former premier would have achieved far more provided that his critics and detractors had been a little bit more patient and had given him more time.