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Meetings galore in divided Malaysia

Meetings galore in divided Malaysia

Speculations and anger mixed with satire and bewilderment seem to be the order of the day in the last 24 hours in Malaysia. Conversations in coffee shops and on social media centred on the epochal moment featuring the resignation of Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister.

The collapse of his government caused his immediate appointment as interim prime minister by King Al-Sultan Abdullah. This follows the botched coup-d’etat by a handful of opposition and ruling political party leaders.

As of writing, the King is still conducting one-on-one interviews with all 222 parliamentarians, requesting that he be allowed to “do his duty” in order to “find the best solution”.

Meantime, Mahathir was meeting political party presidents of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Parti Amanah Malaysia (Amanah) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) and the secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

Reasons for his meetings have not been revealed.

A statement issued by his office said Mahathir spoke with former PKR vice-president Azmin Ali, the ex-Economic Affairs Minister, who allegedly played a key role in the Umno-PAS plot to take over the government.

Mahathir is expected to meet with Borneo-based Parti Warisan president Mohd Shafie Apdal on Wednesday. The 94-year-old has yet to address the nation since the incident, leaving people to speculate on what actually transpired.

He has resigned as the chairman of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which he founded while party president Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin has taken Bersatu out of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, sparking a fallout between them.

In a late evening meeting, Pakatan Harapan leaders comprising of those from the remaining political parties – DAP, Amanah and PKR met at the latter’s headquarters where they issued single liners affirming their promise to “stay together”.

The shocking turn of events have caused a furore among Malaysians, some who are sceptical over the outcome, saying that Mahathir might very well be behind this episode, given his reputation for being very tactical in political and financial manoeuvres.

These manoeuvres have dictated the path of Umno, a party he helmed between 1981 and 2004, and the government.

The timing of the incident amid the outbreak of Covid-19, which has been influencing the recent sluggish performance of regional stock markets, exacerbated the dip in the Malaysian exchange.

Business publication The Edge Financial Daily reported that some 43.4 billion ringgit ($10.3 billion) in market capitalisation was wiped out from Bursa Malaysia, whose index closed the lowest since December 21, 2011.

Sources quoted by Reuters claimed that Mahathir is looking at a non-partisan unity government involving parliamentarians from both divides, one devoid of a “political entity”, essentially a government with no parties but a mixture of various individuals instead.

The political turmoil comes three days after a midnight reinstatement of Mahathir’s promise to hand over his seat to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, a pact which was made prior to the May 8, 2018 general election.

Meanwhile, civil society organisations including clean and fair election advocacy group Bersih 2.0 in a joint statement with 33 other societies condemned the formation of a backdoor government as undemocratic and a betrayal of voters.

It also cancelled out Pakatan Harapan’s election manifesto.

The Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism which criticised the Umno-PAS ploy said it was the onus on Mahathir to gather Pakatan Harapan component parties to negotiate and conduct talks in forming the government, and to state clearly their commitment to the reform agenda.

“People voted the Pakatan Harapan government on the basis of rejecting the previous corrupt regime. Any attempt by them to form a government and by bypassing the voters is an act of treachery which must be opposed strongly and fiercely,” said founding director Cynthia Gabriel.

Malaysia’s The Sun Daily reported that Muslim Youth Movement Malaysia vice-president Zairudin Hashim said the takeover plot was a black mark on the country’s history, urging that the palace should distance itself from the political games played by irresponsible parties.

Progressive and liberal political movement Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity said the rights of Malays would not be lost or compromised in the absence of a race-based coalition to represent them.

“This is how they deceive the Malays so that they can return to power and steal more public funds,” said its founder and lawyer Siti Kasim.


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