KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was never patron or advisor to Perkasa, the Malay rights group said today to dispute a report the two have parted ways.
Syed Hassan Syed Ali, Perkasa’s secretary-general, also said the group has no formal ties with Dr Mahathir, and rubbished a report that the former national leader was distancing himself from the group.
“I do not know from where they got the news that Tun M has started to distance (himself) from Perkasa. We feel that that news is not true,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted today.
He described the group’s ties with Dr Mahathir as cordial, saying that Perkasa’s leadership had met with the latter last November in a yearly closed-door event.
“We meet Tun M in a group, all the members of Perkasa Malaysia’s Supreme Council, once a year to exchange greetings and exchange views regarding current issues,” he said.
But Syed Hassan maintained that Dr Mahathir was merely a supporter of Perkasa’s ideas and was not their patron, adding that the group felt that Dr Mahathir’s views must be given consideration as they considered him the greatest leader in the country’s history and the Islamic world since becoming Malaysia’s fourth prime minister.
“What we know is that Tun supports the struggle of Perkasa, that’s why he always attends Perkasa’s programmes,” he said.
Syed Hassan insisted, however, that Dr Mahathir and Perkasa have no affiliations to each other, saying that Perkasa’s own agenda is not reflective of the former Umno president’s agenda.
He further pointed out that Dr Mahathir seldom reproaches Perkasa even if he may sometimes be uncomfortable with Perkasa’s actions as the leader knows he has no right to determine the group’s course.
Syed Hassan disputed a report earlier today by news portal The Malaysian Insider that Dr Mahathir had parted ways with Perkasa as he was unhappy with how the group caused and handled racial issues including a call to burn Bibles, claiming that it was “distorted” and false.
“Tak betul. Minsider ni pandai2 tambah cerita,” he said. (“Not true. This Minsider is good at adding stories.”)
The Malaysian Insider reported that Dr Mahathir scolded Perkasa last November during their meeting and had claimed to be unwell to explain his absence at Perkasa’s annual general meeting (AGM) when he was in fact unhappy with the group.
Syed Hassan also disputed this claim, saying that Dr Mahathir has never scolded Perkasa.
“Tun M did not come to Perkasa AGM not because of anger or hatred towards Perkasa. He already had other earlier schedule,” he said, also saying that Dr Mahathir was only invited as a special guest while former Chief Justice Tun Abdul Hamid Mohamad was slated to officiate the event.
Syed Hassan expressed his confidence that Dr Mahathir will continue to attend Perkasa events if his health and schedule permit it, adding that Perkasa usually invites Dr Mahathir as a guest to either officiate or give the opening address as it would be a waste to invite him as an ordinary guest.
“I believe Tun M will support Perkasa as long as Perkasa is fighting for what should be fought for. But if Tun M does not support Perkasa anymore in the time to come, that is up to him. We do what we need to do. We are not doing what Tun M asks to do,” he said.
In a brief text message to Malay Mail Online, Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali also disputed the report’s claim that Dr Mahathir was irked by his call for Muslims to burn bibles.
“Not at all. Even Tun M defended me on the bible issue... Tun M’s statement was quoted in media,” Ibrahim said
Last October, Dr Mahathir defended the authorities’ decision not to prosecute Ibrahim’s 2013 call to burn Bibles, saying that the latter’s advice was “acceptable to Muslims” and did not intend to provoke clashes between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Dr Mahathir, who had featured prominently in Perkasa events, said that it was an acceptable practice to burn old copies of Quran, adding that prohibitions against disrespecting the Muslim holy book should be extended to the holy texts of other religions.