Apr 2, 2008

UMNO dissidents launch call for PM Abdullah to step down

"For the continued survival of UMNO, Paklah must go!" - Mukhriz Mahathir

PETALING JAYA: Dissidents in Malaysia's ruling party UMNO have launched a formal movement to call for Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi to step down.

Led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and his son Mukhriz, the group of about 2,000 party members has demanded that Mr Abdullah take responsibility for the ruling coalition's election losses last month.

"For the continued survival of UMNO, Paklah must go!" – that was the call made by UMNO Youth Exco member, Mukhriz.

He said: "The top leadership must be held responsible, particularly the prime minister... and with a new leader, perhaps a new supreme council, the reform will begin."

The newly elected MP also called on party members to join his cause to rebuild the party.

Mukhriz said UMNO is at a crossroads – plagued by rampant corruption, cronyism and nepotism, while rising inflation and worsening public safety and ethnic relations besieged the country.

His father, Dr Mahathir, has accused his handpicked successor of destroying the party and the ruling coalition. He also ticked off those who were afraid to speak out against the top leadership.

"The people deserve the government they get. Be brave, if you love your country, speak out, speak out, speak out," he said.

The movement wants the party to hold an extraordinary general meeting to abolish the minimum nomination quota.

They said the system, which requires 30 percent of 191 divisions' support to contest for party presidency, was open to abuse.

Meanwhile, the emergence of several power centres within UMNO in the lead-up to internal polls this December has also thrown the party's succession plan into confusion.

Mohd Khir Toyo, Former Chief Minsiter of Selangor, said: "Who's going to continue? At the moment, we don't know who's going to lead; we are in the dark."

While it remains to be seen whether the urgent and emotional plea will resonate among the grassroots, the organisers hope that Mr Abdullah will heed the call and take his own initiative to step down immediately so that the party's healing and rejuvenating process could begin.

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