KUALA TERENGGANU: Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday officially offered himself for the post of party president.
Najib made the annoucement at the end of a 30-minute speech to Umno members at a Hari Raya gathering and received a standing ovation.
Also present were Umno vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, state BN chairman Datuk Ahmad Said, Kuala Terengganu division chief Senator Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Salleh and Kuala Terengganu member of parliament Datuk Razali Ismail.
Later at a press conference, he said the contest for the post was in line with party tradition and part of an orderly transfer of power.
Najib thanked Abdullah for trusting and believing in his ability to lead the party and country.
He praised Abdullah for having placed the rakyat, party and country before self.
In his speech, Najib said the current political climate was forcing Umno to raise its game.
"We need to formulate policies that can make the people receptive to Umno. We need to be humble and I do not see why we cannot be humble. The people in the villages want us to be close to them.
"We have reached a stage where we have to look forward in our struggle. The loss of five states to the opposition in the 12th general election was a bitter lesson."
Despite the election results, he said Umno remained the party against which all others are compared.
"The people want us to think and find solutions so that we will not be trapped in a dilemma where we cannot move forward or backward."
Najib said the world had changed and Umno must change if it wanted to stay in power.
"We do not know if the people will still remember Umno for its struggle for independence, its fight against communism, its role in stopping racial conflict after May 13, 1969, or during the Confrontation (with Indonesia).
"Umno must reflect the wishes of the people. Our focus must not be on positions in the party. We must focus on our responsibility to the people."
Najib said he valued his relationship with Abdullah for whom he had been a loyal deputy.
"Some people say I cannot make a stand. That is their right. But as deputy, I have shown my loyalty to a leader. It is not right to fight the leader.
"We have always worked to find a win-win formula where the party's interests come first.
"Umno members at all levels must project an image that we work for the people and are sensitive to their well-being," Najib said.