|Ahmad suspended for 3 years|
|Andrew Ong and Wong Teck Chi | Sep 10, 08 5:27pm|
|Bukit Bendera Umno division chief Ahmad Ismail has been suspended from the party for three years over his racial rants.
This was announced by party president Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after an emergency supreme council meeting which lasted about three hours this afternoon.
“The supreme council’s opinion in this matter is that the statement and actions of Ahmad had caused tension and objections were raised by BN (Barisan Nasional) component parties. We view this seriously,” said Abdullah.
He added that the supreme council also urged all BN component parties to take stern action against theirs members who cause discord among coalition parties.
In an immediate reaction, Ahmad – who was at the party headquarters soon after the meeting – reiterated there was no reason for him to retract his remarks that likened the Chinese community to ‘squatters’.
“No way. I made no mistake,” he insisted.
He also said that Abdullah was “brave” in making the decision to suspend him.
“This decision may not be in favour of Umno… They did it anyway because it is for national security,” he added.
‘Race relations not good’
Meanwhile, Abdullah said Ahmad had been stripped of all his rights in the party but still had the right to appeal against the supreme council’s decision.
Abdullah also told reporters that members of the cabinet had discussed race relations during their weekly meeting this morning.
“We were of the opinion that there are signs which indicate that race relations are not good and there is tension among the races,” he said.
He added that souring race relations were aggravated by a lot of issues and statements which broached upon racial sensitivities and issues that are not normally raised.
“This has caused all sorts of reactions, when for so long (race relations) had been good without any untoward incidents. We cannot allow the current (negative) situation to continue,” he added.
The ‘Chinese squatter’ statement had received strong condemnation from Gerakan and MCA but the situation worsened when Ahmad hit back at Gerakan chief Dr Koh Tsu Koon and suggested that the latter’s party leave BN.
A press conference held by Ahmad two days ago degenerated into a ruckus when a photo of Koh, who is Penang BN chief, was ripped from the wall of the Penang Umno headquarters where the event was held and torn into pieces.
Not a unanimous decision?
Several Umno leaders who spoke to reporters after the emergency supreme council meeting had differing views on the council’s decision.
Council member Shahrir Samad said that the action meted out on Ahmad was “appropriate.”
“(The issue) has reached a stage where it is causing a rift between component parties. Surely stern action had to be taken,” he said.
Another council member Shahidan Kassim said that no one should stoke racial sensitivities but implicitly questioned if Ahmad had been treated fairly.
“If you want to talk about fairness, why no action was taken against (Chinese pressure group) Suqiu or the person who mocked the national anthem?”
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