KUALA LUMPUR, April 11 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad dropped Datuk Osman Sapian as Johor mentri besar for failing to take Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) side in policy matters, according to coalition sources.
They asserted that Dr Mahathir was already unhappy with Osman for his readiness to bend to the Johor palace’s will on matters the prime minister believed to be outside its purview, according to the Straits Times (ST) today.
“According to the senior PH sources, Dr Mahathir's decision to replace Mr Osman came after the federal government announced plans last week to develop a ship-to-ship transfer hub in Johor Baru port waters,” the Singapore paper reported.
Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim complained that the state had not been consulted prior to the announcement, an assertion that Osman backed up by saying he had been unaware of the project.
Dr Mahathir announced Osman’s departure in Parliament this week, but this was also pre-empted by Tunku Ismail who further insisted that the change was on his father’s decree from months ago.
PH sources speaking to the ST appeared to support the Johor prince’s assertion, saying that Dr Mahathir and Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar had broached the topic during the PM’s visit to the state in January.
Both PH and the Johor palace insist they have the prerogative to appoint Osman’s replacement, with the ST suggesting that this could lead to a fresh constitutional crisis in the country.
While it was previously held that state rulers would appoint their MB on the advice of elected lawmakers, the 2009 Perak constitutional crisis has shaken this interpretation.
Since then, the sultans of Selangor, Terengganu and the Raja of Perlis have taken an active role in choosing their respective mentri besar rather than accepting the person nominated by their state assemblies, further reinforcing claims that they could reject the candidates presented to them.
Dr Mahathir took a strong stand against this yesterday, insisting the choice was solely that of the election winners and argued that Malaysia would not be a democracy otherwise.
Sultan Ibrahim could also hold up Osman’s replacement as the MB’s resignation must gain the former’s consent to be effective, according to state protocol.
He has not done so as he is currently abroad and will only return to Malaysia tomorrow.