Apr 19, 2008

Calls For Abdullah To Quit Grow Louder


More calls for the PM to quit from Banners to closed-door discussions.

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: After touring the four states which fell to the opposition last month, Umno top guns are hearing a recurrent theme from the grassroots: It is time for a leadership change.

From banners explicitly asking Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to step down to subtle hints from local leaders made during closed-door discussions, the message was not lost.

In Selangor, for example, a banner put up outside the venue of the dialogue on Wednesday (16 Apr) asked Pak Lah, as the PM is affectionately known, to hand over the leadership to a successor now.

Another one read "Najib - president; Muhyiddin - deputy president", indicating a preference for Deputy PM Najib Razak and Umno vice-president Muhyiddin Yassin to move up the party hierarchy.

A Selangor Umno official denied putting up the banners, which were prominently displayed in front of a hotel where the two-hour dialogue took place.

But no one removed the banners, which would have been deemed offensive before last month's watershed general election.

The dissent against Abdullah also took the form of fliers criticising his businessman son Kamaluddin, who is said to have benefited from state contracts.

The fliers were secretly distributed in the hotel and were also found on windscreens of cars parked there.

It is a message that has been hard to ignore as Najib and his Umno management committee tour the states to gather feedback from party grassroots about why Umno did so badly in the polls.

The calls for PM Abdullah to step down were especially strident in Kedah and Penang - the PM's home state.

Umno Pokok Sena division secretary Ramli Yunus told The Straits Times: 'There was a lot of unhappiness during the dialogue over the election results.

"Division leaders want Pak Lah to take responsibility for the defeat, but I think everyone, including local leaders, should also share the blame."

In Sungai Petani, where the dialogue with Kedah local leaders took place, the audience shouted "president" when the master of ceremony welcomed Najib and "deputy president" when Muhyiddin's name was mentioned, a source said.

A former minister from Kedah, Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, also did not mince his words when he lashed out at the party leadership for ignoring the views of local leaders, especially in the selection of candidates for the election.

In Perak, the angry grassroots prompted Najib to say for the first time that he would discuss the "time and formula" for the succession with his boss.

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