Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said the Barisan Nasional's defeat in the Sibu parliamentary by-election should be taken as an opportunity to rise with a new spirit and strength to wrest it back in the next general election.

He said the BN's strength in the area was intact as its traditional supporters were still with the coalition.

He expressed sadness over the defeat but said that the margin was too narrow and that what the BN needed to do now was to study the weaknesses and carry out the necessary improvement.

"We accept the defeat. As a party which upholds democracy, the BN respects the voters' decision," he told reporters after delivering a special address at the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum's inaugural meeting in Asia at Bank Negara Malaysia here.

In the by-election yesterday, DAP's Wong Ho Leng polled 18,845 votes to win the contest by a 398-vote majority, defeating BN's Robert Lau Hui Yew who polled 18,447 votes and Independent Narawi Haron who garnered 232 votes.

There was no need for finger pointing, Najib said, adding that what was important was to study what had happened and to make improvements if there were weaknesses and to look into the message conveyed by the Sibu voters.

"We should also look into the so-called urban swing. We should study the reason for this phenomenon."

Najib, who was in Sibu on several occasions during the campaign, said among the factors for the defeat was the approach adopted by the BN's machinery, which he said was still following the old ways of campaigning.

There should have been a more creative and energetic approach to the campaign, he added.