Umno lets Mahathir's son off the hook for asking PM to resign

KUALA LUMPUR - MALAYSIA'S ruling party said on Tuesday it would not punish the son of former premier Mahathir Mohammad for demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

A defiant Mukhriz Mahathir stood by his call for Mr Abdullah to go after the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) deliberated over whether to take action against him.

Mr Abdullah has been under pressure to quit since his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition took a beating in March 8 polls, conceding four states and a third of parliamentary seats in unprecedented losses.

Last week, Mr Mukhriz wrote to Mr Abdullah calling on him to stand down, in the first open sign of revolt within UMNO, which heads the coalition.

'We have decided not to take action against him,' said Mr Hishamuddin Hussein, the head of the party's influential youth wing, of which Mr Mukhriz is an executive council member.

'We need our party to be strong,' Mr Hishamuddin said at the end of a meeting over Mr Mukhriz's actions.

Mr Hishamuddin said that Mr Mukhriz told the closed-door meeting that his views were those of the public and Mr Hishamuddin said he felt there was nothing wrong with expressing his views.

'If we don't change and we still remain in a denial mode there is a possibility that we will become irrelevant,' Mr Hishamuddin said, referring to calls within the party for reform after the election debacle.

An upbeat Mr Mukhriz said he was relieved by the decision and was ready to help reform the government. 'I have made my stand clearly before this and I have not changed my mind,' he said.

Mr Mukhriz's father, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has also pushed for Mr Abdullah to step down, accusing him of 'destroying' the ruling coalition and UMNO, and saying he regretted selecting him for the top job when he stood down in 2003.

Mr Abdullah, who has repeatedly refused to stand down, on Tuesday unveiled a new cabinet, dropping veteran politicians and appointing fresh faces in a bid to rejuvenate his administration. -- AFP