Pakatan’s history of airing dirty laundry in public in 2018

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference to announce Pakatan’s new Cabinet line-up in Petaling Jaya May 12, 2018. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference to announce Pakatan’s new Cabinet line-up in Petaling Jaya May 12, 2018. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 — Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) first term in government has been nothing short of eventful, as politicians from component parties had no qualms publicly criticising each other.

It remains to be seen whether this is evidence of a vibrant democracy or a fragile government, compared to the previous long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) administration that was dominated by Umno.

From contradictory statements to a salvo of public accusations, here are some of the open barbs PH leaders have traded with each other after winning the 14th general election:

Lim Guan Eng’s appointment as finance minister

On May 16, PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim voiced his concern over the appointment of Lim Guan Eng as finance minister, since the latter would be the first ethnic Chinese to hold the powerful Cabinet portfolio in four decades.

This followed Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s announcement on May 13 of Lim’s position in the Cabinet along with PPBM president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin as home minister and Amanah President Mohamad Sabu as Defence minister.

Former PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli had also accused Dr Mahathir of announcing Lim, Muhyiddin and Mohamad’s Cabinet portfolios without proper consultation with the PKR leadership.

Maszlee’s rejection of Chinese school funding

Education Minister Maszlee Malik drew the ire of members of his own coalition following a written reply from his ministry on July 26 that stated that Chinese independent high schools would not be funded by the Education Ministry.

This led to criticism from MCA leader Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, as well as Ipoh Timor MP Wong Kah Won and Bercham state assemblyman Ong Boon Piow, both of whom are from DAP.

They slammed Maszlee and urged the prime minister to review whether the PPBM lawmaker was fit to helm the portfolio.

Maszlee taking up IIUM presidency

On September 5, Maszlee was appointed the seventh International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) president after approval by IIUM chancellor, Pahang ruler Sultan Ahmad Shah.

Politicians from both sides of the political divide criticised the education minister, stating it was a clear conflict of interest.

Among the critics was Kampung Tunku state assemblyman Lim Yi Wei from DAP, who urged Maszlee to relinquish the IIUM president’s post on the very same day that he was appointed.

Rafizi’s challenge for Azmin’s PKR post

In September, Rafizi challenged incumbent Datuk Seri Azmin Ali for the deputy president’s post in the PKR election.

The contest for PKR’s second most powerful position saw party leaders attacking each other, like Kapar MP Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid and Ampang MP Zuraida Kamaruddin.

The public spat between both camps intensified as the party polls came to a close in November and ended with Azmin’s victory.

Azis Jamman’s defence of the Sedition Act

On October 2, the police detained Azman Noor Adam, brother of Umno supreme council member Datuk Lokman Noor Adam, under the Sedition Act following his alleged criticism of the prime minister.

Deputy Home Minister Mohd Azis Jamman from PPBM defended on November 4 the use of the Sedition Act against Azman.

This drew flak from DAP’s Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh, along with Latheefa Koya and N. Surendran from PKR, who said that the government lacked the political will to repeal the law that PH leaders themselves once called draconian.

Surendran even said that Aziz was not suited to be a deputy minister and insisted he should refer to PH’s 2018 election manifesto on repealing the Sedition Act.

Demands for P. Waytha Moorthy to resign

PPBM’s Youth wing Armada, which is led by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, reportedly sent a memorandum to the prime minister’s office on December 19 asking Waytha, who is minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of unity, to be sacked.

Waytha was accused of failing to prevent, or even contributing to the riots at the Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam temple in Subang Jaya in November that led to the death of firefighter Muhammad Adib Mohd Kassim on December 17.

Armada’s push for a fellow minister’s sacking prompted Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy to demand action against Syed Saddiq on December 20.

Ramkarpal had also said Syed Saddiq was “highly irresponsible” by avoiding collective ministerial responsibility that requires all ministers to publicly back every Cabinet decision.

Maszlee’s ‘medan dakwah’ call

On December 20, Sarawak PH chairman’s special assistant Abdul Aziz Isa called for Maszlee’s resignation, following his remarks a day earlier asking religious teachers from the peninsula to treat Sabah and Sarawak as “medan dakwah” or arena to evangelise.

DAP’s Bukit Assek state lawmaker Irene Mary Chang also told Maszlee to get his priorities right by resolving problems related to education and schools in Sarawak and Sabah, instead of making gaffes from time to time.

Aziz retracted his statement a day later following Maszlee’s claim that he used the word in a “wider context” to mean “bringing mankind towards good” — which could be done through various means including education.

PPBM opening its doors to Umno ‘frogs’

Following the mass resignations of Sabah MPs and assemblymen from Umno on December 12 and the subsequent exit of six other MPs on December 14, political pundits have speculated that many of these elected representatives will join Dr Mahathir’s PPBM.

On December 18, Dr Mahathir pledged to only allow credible Umno leaders into his party, but many members of PH component parties were uncomfortable with this suggestion.

This included DAP’s Ramkarpal, who warned PH that it would be betraying its voters by accepting former Umno leaders.

Kota Melaka MP Khoo Poay Tiong from DAP urged PPBM not to accept former Melaka chief minister Tan Rahim Thamby Chik’s application, branding the ex-Umno leader as the “father of all scandals” in the state.

PKR leader’s sudden attack on Dr M

On December 21, Kedah PKR chief Datuk Johari Abdul accused the prime minister of being uncertain about what to do after removing former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak from power as well as spending too much time abroad.

The chairman of the Government Backbenchers Club in Parliament urged Dr Mahathir to stop playing up the alleged misappropriation of government funds by Najib, as the former BN chairman has already been charged in court.

Dr Mahathir’s supporter Khairuddin Abu Hassan, who is an Amanah member, then claimed that those who failed to get government positions were plotting to oust the prime minister.