KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday (Dec 10) that he would not surrender even though there have been many obstacles and challenges, and he was open to resolving any problem through discussions.
"I am a gentleman, whatever problem there is let us meet, sit down and discuss. We solve this using the right channel," Datuk Seri Najib said in his speech at the Umno general assembly.
Mr Najib said he was never confrontational throughout his career as a politician and would not turn against the ruling party. "Everyone knows that this Najib Razak, myself, am not confrontational. I have never toppled anyone.''
"In 1987 at the crucial point of choosing a side in Umno...I chose to be loyal to the leadership of Tun Mahathir, when he was defending his position as Umno president and..prime minister,'' he told the Umno leaders and delegates.
He reminded them that Umno's constitution asks for leaders to “assist the president” of the party and to voice opinions through the “proper channel”, in a speech that also touched on the achievements of the government under his leadership.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been a fierce critic of Mr Najib's leadership due to debt-ridden state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and a scandal over a RM2.6 (S$856 million) deposit into the latter's personal account. He has on several occasions called for Mr Najib's resignation.
Dr Mahathir, who was seated at the front row during the general assembly, told reporters after the speech: "Umno succeeded but don't take the credit for Umno’s success as though it is our own success,” he said. “I too never took credit.”
The 90-year-old former premier left the venue as soon as Mr Najib's address was over. In a sea of red, a group of men in blue T-shirts shouted “long live Tun” as he walked towards his car.
Umno Deputy President Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Vice-President Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, who were sacked as Malaysia's deputy prime minister and rural and regional development minister during the Cabinet reshuffle in July, have maintained that they are loyal party men who place the interests of Umno above all else.
“If we do not solidify the party, and only solidify the president, this government would not be ours,” Mr Shafie told reporters.
Mr Najib, who has been under pressure this year over scandals involving 1MDB, addressed the concerns in his speech, saying "it is being taken care of and in the process of resolution."
He reiterated that the RM2.6 billion deposited into his personal bank account was a donation from abroad and not from 1MDB, as he had explained at Parliament recently through his deputy Zahid Hamidi.
"What is important, I am confident I am in the right and the truth so be proven," he said.
In his speech to thousands of Umno delegates and invited guests from overseas, Mr Najib also listed some of Malaysia's achievements during his leadership.
"In the WEF (World Economic Forum) 2015-2016 ranking, we rose two spots to become 18th of 144 top global economies. So how can anyone say we are a failed state or become poorer under my leadership,'' he said.
"In fact, some examples we can be proud of include Construction of gas platform in Caspian sea, managing of Istanbul's second international airport, Shale Gas investment, which is the largest FDI in Canada as a result of Malaysian efforts."
Mr Najib also said as a prime minister, he had to make tough decisions in the face of various dilemmas. but he made those decisions for the good of the party after getting consensus from the Umno supreme council.
"If you wish to please everybody, you will end up pleasing no one," he said.
Referring to the Cabinet reshuffle, Mr Najib said the decision was made in order to foster consensus, loyalty and build collective responsibility.
“Even if one day the baton of leadership will be passed on to someone else ... I can’t just abandon our cause and drop our mission,” he said.
"Even though there will be those who turn away, even though we are pushed to fall, there shall be no retreat, no surrender. No retreat! No surrender!”