KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday said there was no conflict between Umno party vice-presidents Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Hishammuddin Hussein.
Denying a rift between the two men following Datuk Seri Hishammuddin's appointment on Tuesday as Special Functions Minister - in addition to his duties as the Minister of Defence - the Prime Minister said he had earlier discussed Mr Hishammuddin's appointment with Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid.
"I had discussed it with Dr Ahmad Zahid for months.
"In fact, it was Dr Ahmad Zahid who suggested that Hishammuddin be appointed Defence Minister and Special Functions Minister," Datuk Seri Najib said at the launch of the Barisan Nasional Jalinan Rakyat (JR) Plus election machinery for the 14th General Election at the Putra World Trade Centre.
"Our main generals must be in one solid and strong team, each trusting the other, and because of that, there must not be anyone who tries to pit Hishammuddin against Zahid," said Mr Najib.
Present at the launch were both Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is Deputy Prime Minister and also Home Minister, and Mr Hishammuddin, who sat next to each other.
The two men were also seen joking with each other, prompting Mr Najib to point out that their close ties were the reason they could sit together.
"The only thing they haven't done is kiss each other, so, no problem," Mr Najib joked, to laughter and applause from the audience.
Separately, Mr Najib issued a reminder to Umno and governing coalition Barisan Nasional's other component party members on the importance of respecting racial and religious diversity in the country.
He said he was reminded of what Malaysia's founding father, Tunku Abdul Rahman, once said.
"Tunku Abdul Rahman said that there should not be any racial selfishness in this country.
"This means we cannot have a sense of racialism which is extreme and to the extent that we don't care about others."
Mr Najib, who is also chairman of the multi-ethnic Barisan Nasional coalition, said this cannot be allowed to happen, even though Islam is the country's official religion.
"We cannot afford it because we are multiracial and multi-religious and though Islam is the official religion of the federation we must respect other ethnic groups," he said.
Thousands of Umno and Barisan Nasional component party members packed Dewan Merdeka at the Putra World Trade Centre to attend the event.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK