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Rais wants contest for UMNO top 2

Malaysiakini report:

The two top positions in Umno must be contested in order to strengthen the party's democratic process, said Umno supreme council and Foreign Minister Dr Rais Yatim.

"Umno is in dire need of a strong democratic process and I belong to that group where the (positions) of the president and the deputy president should be challenged," he said.

Rais told this to Bernama after chairing a meeting of 13 heads of Malaysian missions in the Americas at the Malaysian Embassy in Washington.

"Any office should be subject to contests - public office should not be sacrosanct - Umno should go through a process of reversion," back to the way it was," he said.

Contest for the party's top two positions became off-limits following the 1987 battle for presidency between the then incumbent Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Tengku Razaleigh subsequently formed Semangat 46 and took several key Umno members with him, including Rais. However, the duo have since returned to Umno.

Meanwhile, Rais, who said that he intended to contest for the post of vice-president at the party's general assembly in December, added that this "process of reversion" within Umno was healthy for the party.

If decisions were made by leaders only, some repercussions were bound to happen but "if grassroots were given the opportunity, then democratic values could be enhanced," said the Jelebu MP

He was, however, confident that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his deputy Najib Abdul Razak, could weather the "rough spot" in the country's political storm.

Sodomy charge

On Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy charge, the foreign minister said the former was going to court to face the rule of law based on the Penal Code, and it had nothing to do with his political ambitions.

"Unlike Europe and the United States, sodomy is a crime in Malaysia," he said, responding to the harsh criticisms on the Malaysian government from Western countries.

Anwar has repeatedly claimed that he has more than 30 Barisan Nasional MPs who are willing to defect in order for the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat to form government.
He had initially set Sept 16 as the deadline to take over the government but this did not materialise.

Commenting on this, Rais: "His deadline has come and gone and this will cost him his credibility."

On the controversial Internal Security Act (ISA), the foreign minister said it was important that the ISA be re-evaluated to be aligned with the principles of human rights with regards to justice, administration of law and jurisdiction of the court.

"We now have to re-look at the ISA to tackle the criticisms - certain aspects of ISA could be re-evaluated. Malaysia should no longer say we cannot (review the ISA)," he added.

Two weeks ago, the police detained three people, including a journalist, under the security law.

While the journalist and DAP parliamentarian Teresa Kok were subsequently released, controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin has been sent to the Kamunting Detention Centre to undergo a two-year detention.