KUALA LUMPUR, March 7 — The split in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia happened because Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was willing to work with Umno but Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was not, the latter said today.
In his speech at a community event in Jitra, Kedah today, Dr Mahathir said he felt sorry that Muhyiddin had chosen to join forces with individuals who are accused of committing crimes in order to fulfil his prime ministerial ambitions.
“I have been prime minister twice, so no big deal lah. It’s not that I want the position that much.
“But when a friend stabs you in the back, it hurts,” he was quoted as saying by Sinar Harian.
Dr Mahathir also appeared to suggest that backroom manoeuvring may have been taking place far earlier than was suspected.
“During the 14th general election, we worked together to topple a kleptocratic government.
“After we succeeded, those who lost tried to influence PAS and Bersatu members on the pretext of establishing a Malay-centric government.
“Muhyiddin urged me to leave Pakatan Harapan for this reason and work with Umno and PAS,” he was quoted as saying.
However, the former prime minister said he rejected these overtures because he simply couldn’t bring himself to work with Umno knowing what some of the party’s members have been accused of doing to the country.
“But Muhyiddin was willing to work with them while I wasn’t. That’s politics, anything can happen.
“I still remember we came up with a song along the lines of ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ when we established Bersatu.
“In the end, the one who opted for a ‘divorce’ was Muhyiddin who tried to bring down Bersatu and chose Najib over me,” he added in reference to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
With Bersatu loyalties now apparently split between him and Muhyiddin, Dr Mahathir said it was up to its members to decide who should lead the party.
Dr Mahathir is the party chairman while Muhyiddin is the president.
“Now Bersatu is divided. Some are with the president while others are with me.
“But we have a party election and this will decide who will form the party leadership,” he was quoted as saying.
Nomination day for Bersatu’s leadership positions is on March 16. All 189 divisions will cast their vote on April 18. The party’s annual general meeting is slated for June 23 to 28.
Nonetheless, the former prime minister stressed that there are forces at play far greater than politics right now.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia is facing two major challenges in the form of a faltering economy and the Covid-19 outbreak.
“This is not the time for political wrangling. In order to tackle these two challenges head on, we need to remain calm, but some seem to feel politics takes precedence,” he added.