KUALA LUMPUR – Allies of Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim shot back on Monday (June 29) at his accusations of conspiring behind his back, openly attacking his dalliances with a key engineer of defections that brought down the Mahathir Mohamad government in February.
The joint statement by Pakatan Harapan (PH) members Parti Amanah Negara and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) insisting “there should be no deal or attempt to form any deal with Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin, the chief conspirator of the Sheraton coup” is the latest broadside in a month-long tumult among the opposition parties.
Key leaders of the “Sheraton Move” had met at the eponymous hotel near Kuala Lumpur on Feb 23 to block the PH deal for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar to succeed Tun Dr Mahathir.
The so-called PH Plus – the three PH members plus Sabah’s ruling Warisan and rebels from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia led by Dr Mahathir – have refused to endorse Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
They are holding out hope of a counter-coup as their 108 MPs ensure the 114 lawmakers in the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government are hanging by a slim majority.
A minimum of 112 MPs are needed in Malaysia’s Parliament to form the government.
PH was toppled from power after a week-long saga that saw about 40 MPs led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin joining hands with former opposition parties such as Umno and the Islamist Parti Islam SeMalaysia.
The main players who birthed the PN pact included former PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, Home Minister Hamzah and Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
The trio have driven a pro-Malay agenda since last year and share a common desire to deny Datuk Seri Anwar the premiership.
While PKR insists its president, Mr Anwar, 72, must be allowed to end a 22-year pursuit to lead government since he was sacked as deputy premier by Dr Mahathir in 1998, the rest of the opposition have backed the former premier, who turns 95 next month.
In a bid to reach a compromise, Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal, 63, emerged last week as a candidate for PH Plus but without support from PKR.
Officials told The Straits Times that those proposing Datuk Seri Shafie believe he is a better bet than Mr Anwar in pulling support from the crucial Malay Muslim majority as well as fellow East Malaysians.
This is especially so in Sarawak, whose ruling coalition are currently kingmakers with 18 MPs, and could very well continue in this role after the next general election.
But Mr Anwar has dug in his heels, calling for the rejection of “deceitful politics” just hours after Warisan president Shafie was publicly endorsed by Dr Mahathir last Friday.
Mr Anwar on Sunday batted away questions about his discussions with PN leaders such Mr Muhyiddin, who is Bersatu president, and secretary-general Hamzah.
“I don’t conspire behind like some others. I immediately briefed the Harapan council,” said Mr Anwar, referring to the coalition’s highest leadership team.
This comes on the back of growing calls from PKR grassroots to leave PH and party whip Johari Abdul claiming that Mr Anwar’s meetings with the premier and Home Minister are to “sell the reform agenda”.
On Monday, DAP vice-chair Kulasegaran Murugeson and Amanah’s deputy president Salahuddin Ayub said in a statement “any combination of parties to restore the people’s mandate must include the original five PH Plus parties” – a preemptive reminder that PKR alone does not own the mandate for reforms.
“Amanah and DAP maintain that Warisan and Dr Mahathir’s faction of Bersatu are not our enemies,” the two leaders said.
“Instead, they are our allies in the fight against the kleptocratic PN. We would like our allies to know who are actually friends and who are foes. The inability to distinguish friends and foes would lead us into unmitigated disasters.”