Media Statement by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on Wednesday, 8th October 2008: 

D-Day for Abdullah – honourable or dishonourable exit?

It is exactly seven months ago this day that the March 8 political tsunami struck the Malaysian political landscape, resulting in today as D-Day for Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi – whether he will defend the Umno presidency.

Yesterday was a day of utter confusion with conflicting news throughout the day that Abdullah had been persuaded to “fight it out” including against his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, with all the weapons available to him to defend the posts of Umno President and Prime Minister.

The general consensus, however, is that “sanity will finally prevail” and Abdullah will succumb to the Umno Supreme Council pressures for an orchestrated five-month exit as Prime Minister by not contesting for the top Umno post.

If so, then the two most pertinent questions are:

1. Is it going to be an honourable or dishonourable exit for the fifth Prime Minister? and

2. Will the five-month succession interregnum pave the way for an end to the worsening multiple national crisis of confidence in the past seven months or whether it will plunge the country into a deeper rut and rot?

When he was asked on Monday what would be his focus in his remaining days as prime minister, regardless of when he decides to leave, Abdullah said he would use the time to make good on his promises to the rakyat.

He said: “There are uncompleted things, such as reforms I promised the rakyat.

“I will undertake them. Of course, I have to do it because what I promised, I will deliver.”

It is sad and pathetic to see Abdullah end his five-year premiership in a mirage - cocooned in total denial.

If Abdullah cannot deliver his many reform pledges when he was at the height of his power as a result of the greatest electoral victory and mandate ever won by any Prime Minister in half-a-century in March 2004, what could he achieve when he is being forced out of office after suffering the most ignominous electoral defeat in Umno and Barisan Nasional history?

It is a million times more difficult for Abdullah to deliver his reform pledges once he has announced his exit-plan today than when he won the landslide electoral mandate in the March 2004 general election.

But this could still be done, if Abdullah is prepared to “do the impossible” and use his last five months as Prime Minister to honour all the unfulfilled pledges and promises of the past five years – but this must be evident from today’s Cabinet meeting as well as the first day of the reconvened Parliament on Monday, October 13, 2008.

This will be an honourable exit for the fifth Prime Minister. It will be Abdullah’s tryst with destiny.

Can Abdullah embark on such an “impossible mission” in his last five months as Prime Minister, when there will be a de facto Prime Minister who will immediately and increasingly be more powerful than the de jure Prime Minister?

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor