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Malaysian King Calls on MPs to Show Maturity Amid Political Turmoil

Hadi Azmi and Nisha David
Kuala Lumpur
2020-10-16
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Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to reporters after spending two hours being questioned at the federal police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Oct. 16, 2020.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to reporters after spending two hours being questioned at the federal police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Oct. 16, 2020.
S. Mahfuz/BenarNews

Malaysia’s king called on parliamentarians Friday to display “maturity” in resolving a power struggle, while opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed he was a target of political harassment after police questioned him about a list of MPs who apparently back his bid to lead the government.

In a statement, a palace official said King Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah urged lawmakers to grasp the people’s hardship as Malaysia’s economy reels from ripple effects brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The king wanted to remind lawmakers of his earlier decree “for the MPs to show political maturity and to understand people’s struggles and not neglect the people’s wellbeing,” said National Palace comptroller Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin.

“In relation to the latest political developments in the country, the king would like to advise the people, especially the politicians, to think about the country so that it will not be dragged into the uncertainties brought by political turmoil yet again because we are still facing numerous challenges and future uncertainties due to COVID-19,” Fadil said in the statement.

“Your Majesty stresses that politicians should not end differences of opinion in an adversarial manner, but instead resolve issues with negotiations and using constitutional provisions,” he added.

The public statement from the palace was the second one issued after Anwar, the leader of the opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance and the People’s Justice Party (PKR), met with the king at the royal household on Tuesday to present him with documentation that he has a majority of support among parliamentarians to form a new government.

On the same day of the meeting, the palace issued a statement afterward saying that Anwar had presented the total number of MPs whom he claims support him, but the opposition leader “did not produce the list of names of the Members of Parliament to substantiate his claim.”

In the palace’s initial statement, it said the king “advised Anwar to adhere and respect the law process as enshrined in the Federal Constitution.”

On Tuesday, Anwar told reporters that more than 120 lawmakers in the country’s 222-seat parliament support his bid to topple Prime Minister Muyhiddin Yassin’s unelected seven-month-old government. But he also refused to divulge the names of lawmakers who support him.

On Friday, police questioned Anwar for two hours about a list of apparent supporters that went viral after receiving more than 113 complaints about it.

“I told him (the investigator) that this matter so far was for me to present to the Agong (the king) and not the police or political affairs of the home minister who instructed the police to find out,” Anwar said.

“It is clearly a malicious political harassment and, from my understanding, there is a clear political instruction to the police because of the manner of the questions raised and the issues brought up – purely on the issues of the MPs – who they are, what are their names,” Anwar told reporters.

The opposition leader confirmed that police also questioned him regarding sodomy, a crime for which he was twice sent to prison but received a royal pardon in 2018 from the previous king.

“Yes (that’s) normal. This is just a political plan to put pressure on me in these critical moments,” Anwar said.

Analyst James Chin of the University of Tasmania said it is likely that Muhyiddin’s camp would try to identify MPs who have pledged support to Anwar.

“Yes, nobody actually knows who is supporting who. Back in February some MPs played both sides,” he told BenarNews without elaborating.

No confidence proposals

Meanwhile, Muhyiddin could face a no confidence vote during the next parliament session, which is set to begin Nov. 2. Six MPs, including five led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, sent proposals on Thursday to introduce a vote in the session, which runs through Dec. 23.

Former Education Minister Maszlee Malik, who represents Mahathir’s new party Pejuang, said all five party MPs brought the motion.

“This decision was taken because of the PM’s failure to govern the country during the COVID-19 pandemic and also on doubts about his majority,” Maszlee said.

Mahfuz Omar, an MP with the Amanah party, filed a proposal late Friday.

Mahathir himself sent a similar motion on May 8, more than two months after Muhyiddin succeeded him on March 1.

Mahathir and Anwar joined forces in 2018 to lead the Pakatan Harapan alliance to a stunning victory in the 2018 general election that swept the United Malays National Organization Party (UMNO) out of power after 61 years. Mahathir had struck a pact with Anwar to hand over power to him in two years, but the young government collapsed in late February because of infighting over who should succeed Mahathir.

UMNO has been a main party in the government headed by Muhyiddin but on Tuesday, UMNO announced that it was considering pulling out of his ruling alliance, which would cause it to collapse.

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