World

Sign election near as Najib takes BN for retreat

Barisan leaders gather for 3-day bonding retreat in Pahang

PETALING JAYA In a sign that the 14th general election is on the horizon, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak led Barisan Nasional bigwigs in an intensive three-day retreat to further strengthen the coalition ahead of the polls.

Mr Najib, who is Barisan chairman, and his deputy, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, stayed on throughout the closed-door retreat, which began after Friday prayers and ended yesterday afternoon at the Institut Latihan Memperkasa Ummah in Janda Baik, Pahang.

The hush-hush retreat was attended by component party leaders and chief ministers.

Johor Chief Minister Khaled Nordin, Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman, Perak Chief Minister Zambry Abd Kadir and Malacca Chief Minister Idris Haron were among the state Barisan chiefs who were present.

Malaysian Chinese Association president Liow Tiong Lai said the retreat was structured like a training course aimed at enhancing the esprit de corps and cooperation among Barisan component parties.

"While we did not touch a lot on the detailed preparations for the 14th general election, I would summarise the three days and two nights as a refresher course for all of us to come together as a team to face the adversaries," he said.

The next general election must be called by June next year when the government's current five-year term ends.

There has been talk that Mr Najib may opt to call for polls this year.

Barisan communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan said Mr Najib and Mr Zahid were active participants in all the sessions.

The DNA of Barisan and our unity is not easily rocked as we have a proven and time-tested system. Barisan Nasional communications director Abdul Rahman Dahlan

"This is the fourth Barisan retreat held and in all honesty, the spirit of brotherhood and camaraderie now is stronger than ever - not just at the national level but at state level including in Sabah and Sarawak," he said.

Asked whether differences of opinion among component parties over the Private Member's Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act had cast a shadow over the coalition, Mr Abdul Rahman replied: "The issues are plenty but because of the prime minister's leadership and our emphasis on consensus, we can overcome them."

He added: "Our component party leaders are people who understand the spirit. The DNA of Barisan and our unity is not easily rocked as we have a proven and time-tested system."

Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah (PBRS) president Joseph Kurup said the component parties were in "high spirits" after the retreat.

"We will be working more closely to make sure that we move forward as one team for the general election," he said.

Asked whether specifics such as seat distribution among component parties were discussed, Mr Kurup said: "We were told what we need to do to be ready but as for the details, I believe they will be discussed later."

Malaysian Indian Congress president, Dr S. Subramaniam, said on March 29 that the retreat would be attended by more than 300 Barisan component party leaders.

"Barisan is ready for the general election and while preparations are ongoing, it will be intensified," he said. - THE STAR

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