THE decision by Datuk Sri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down as Prime Minister by March, though surprising was not unexpected.
Many may feel let down by his premature exit from the political arena especially when there country is plagued with numerous problems.
They would have preferred him to defend his post and remain as PM for a short while more and pursue his promised reforms with more vigour and zeal.
Similarly there are those who are pleased that he finally agreed to make way for others to take over and manage the affairs of the nation more effectively in facing the current challenges.
Nevertheless it was magnanimous of him to give in to the calls of the people to relinquish his post and make way for someone new to succeed him especially when the country is facing tremendous political and economic uncertainties.
Whoever succeeds him will have a monumental task at hand to rebuild the nation to its past glory.
He will have to possess not only all the skills of political manoeuvring but above all the integrity, courage and whole-hearted commitment to bring bold changes for the benefit of the people and nation. Abdullah promised many changes when he took over the premiership in 2003. Despite his honesty and sincerity in wanting to bring changes and reforms for the benefit of the common man, Abdullah met with limited success.
The hardcore political realities prevented him from succeeding in realising his dreams as he would have wanted.
Abdullah has admitted his shortcomings and plans to continue with his unaccomplished tasks during the remaining short period of six months.
He plans to continue with his attempts to reform the judiciary by establishing a Judicial Appointments Commission and a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to strengthen and empower the anti-corruption body.
He wants to set up a Special Complaints Commission to improve the effectiveness of enforcement agencies and organise a Barisan Nasional convention to tackle head-on sensitive inter-communal problems that are threatening to disrupt the peace and harmony in our multi-racial country.
These may be honourable and praiseworthy aims on the part of the outgoing prime minister but time constraints may not allow him to complete these noble tasks before he leaves.
Nevertheless he should boldly push through these reforms with more vigour and zeal in the remaining time he is in office and impress on his successor the need to continue with them fearlessly.
While these reforms may meet tremendous resistance in their implementation and have limited chance for success, one thing that he can definitely succeed in the short time he has is abolishing the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) and releasing all those detained under the Act.
Repealing the law is not an option but a must as the vast majority of the people oppose it.
Pak Lah still has the time to demonstrate that he listens to the people, whom he claims to love so much.
What the people want now is the immediate release of all ISA detainees and the abolition of the Act altogether.
If he can do that he will at least go done in history as the prime minister who restored greater democracy to the nation and freed the people from the clutches of a repressive law.