"It is not a question of being 'Mr Yes Man' or being not brave enough or afraid because I hold to the principle that the best way is to have an organised transfer of power, in a respectable way."
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak Monday brushed aside a claim by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that he was a coward for failing to speak up about the real reasons behind the Barisan Nasional's dismal performance in the recent general election, according to Bernama.
"I'm not a coward," the Umno deputy president said when asked to comment on Dr Mahathir's claim made in Manchester, England, on Saturday after the latter had given a talk at the University of Manchester.
Dr Mahathir had said that he had second thoughts about Najib becoming the prime minister because the former prime minister claimed that Najib was not "brave enough" to directly say anything that was not liked by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Najib said: "It is not a question of being 'Mr Yes Man' or being not brave enough or afraid because I hold to the principle that the best way is to have an organised transfer of power, in a respectable way. That would be meaningful and would determine that the party's interests are not undermined," he told reporters.
The deputy prime minister said Umno's history would show that the transfer of power from the first prime minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, to Tun Abdul Razak Hussein proceeded smoothly.
"The late Tun Hussein Onn handed over the office of prime minister to Tun Dr Mahathir also in a proper way, with tradition dictating the best way practised in the party.
"In my opinion, that's the best way and method for us to execute a change in the country's leadership, as was stated by the prime minister and party president," he said.
He said the transfer of power should be given the chance to take place in a respectable way as all decisions in the short term would have an impact on Umno.
"If we do anything at this time, when Umno and BN are not as strong as they were prior to the general election, we will need time to rehabilitate Umno," he said.
He said disputes and friction would definitely take place and result in two or three factions in the party, which would weaken Umno and the BN.
"We cannot afford to allow such a situation to take place in the party, which can cause a major problem for the government and country," he said.
Najib, who refuted claims that there were cracks in Umno, did not rule out the possibility that the party would be split if there was a tussle for power and the leadership.
"I am not saying that there is a split but if there is a leadership crisis, there may be a repeat of the 1987 and the (Datuk Seri) Anwar Ibrahim crises. The question is whether the BN and Umno can afford to undergo such a scenario again," he said.
(Am sorry to say this Datuk Seri: Rightly or wrongly, that seems to be the general public perception of you. A person who is playing it safe, is non-committal, waiting for his time and simply doesn't want to rock the boat.)