KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — The thorny ties between Putrajaya and Johor surfaced in China today where Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is attending a symposium on the Belt and Road Initiative.
In a news conference in Beijing that was streamed “live” over Facebook to Malaysia, Dr Mahathir noted that ascension to the throne is not cast in stone for the heir-designate even as he pointed out that prime ministers can only be changed by public vote in a democracy.
“We need to remember the past when a crown prince had to abdicate and the position was given to his younger brother. That’s the crown prince, a crown prince can be changed. Only the people can change the prime minister, not just anybody or someone who thinks he is big,” he said.
Dr Mahathir’s leadership of Malaysia was put under the microscope again by Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Ibrahim in recent weeks ahead of Pakatan Harapan’s first anniversary.
Ties between the federal government and the Johor palace became frostier after May 9 last year when the 93-year-old from Kedah became PM for the second time.
“He’s not big, he’s a small fry. If he thinks he’s big, go and vote and bring me down,” Dr Mahathir sarcastically replied to a question regarding Tunku Ismail’s recent remarks.
In a recently viral video, the Tunku Mahkota Johor was seen leaving the Tan Sri Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium in Larkin, Johor, after football club Johor Darul Ta’zim’s 0-1 defeat to Shandong Luneng in the AFC Champions League last Wednesday night.
Some of the fans chanted “Hidup TMJ” (long live TMJ, in reference to Tunku Ismail’s title) but one shouted “change Mora”, referring to the football team’s coach Benjamin Mora.
Tunku Ismail’s vehicle suddenly stopped and the crown prince stuck his head out of the window and said: “Instead of changing Mora, it’s better to change the prime minister”.