End politics for narrow interests: Malaysian King

Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah
Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah

He warns Parliament that 'enmity and slander' will cause country's downfall, calls for lawmakers and public to unite

Malaysia's King has called on MPs to end the incessant political bickering as it has "exhausted" everyone, and warned that "toppling, enmity and slander" would lead to the country's downfall.

"We hope that all honourable members end politics for narrow interests as it has dragged on for a long time, where it has exhausted the people and government," Sultan Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah said in his address at the reconvening of Parliament.

His comments came just three days after former premier Mahathir Mohamad joined hands with opposition figures, civil society leaders and Umno rebels in declaring that they would cooperate to unseat Prime Minister Najib Razak over a huge financial scandal.

The King said in his speech, by convention one that was prepared by the government, that lawmakers and the public should unite and show undivided loyalty to "defend and protect" the country.

Sultan Abdul Halim yesterday also expressed his wish to see "attempts to incite racial sentiment and abuse of social media by spreading seditious and slanderous remarks and extremist ideologies" contained immediately.

The Malaysian authorities have moved to block websites, including The Malaysian Insider news site, and filed charges over posts on blogs, Facebook and Twitter with content deemed criminal.

PEOPLE, GOVERNMENT EXHAUSTED

We hope that all honourable members end politics for narrow interests as it has dragged on for a long time, where it has exhausted the people and government.

SULTAN ABDUL HALIM MU'ADZAM SHAH, in his address at the reconvening of Parliament

  • Online battle

  • KUALA LUMPUR • Supporters and detractors of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak are facing off online.

    On Facebook and Twitter, an unofficial campaign dubbed #RespectMyPM comes with posters that tell its supporters to stand in solidarity with the embattled Datuk Seri Najib, who is facing accusations of financial misappropriation and mismanaging state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad.

    The campaign by the unknown supporters includes the flag of Malaysia and says "I am Malaysian and I... #RespectMyPM".

    There are also posters of the flags of all the 13 Malaysian states, which allow supporters from different states to share their conviction that Mr Najib deserves their support.

    Meanwhile, on petition website change.org, Malaysian activist Azrul Mohd Khalib started a petition last Friday to ask Mr Najib to resign. It has now gathered more than 32,000 supporters.

    The petition repeated the demands of the so-called Save Malaysia campaign led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

    The #RespectMyPM campaign, according to the Facebook page Pertahan Negara Kita - Defend Our Country - says that it is time for the people to rally behind Mr Najib.

    But as the campaign is not anchored on one page in Facebook or on change.org, it is difficult to gauge how many netizens support the initiative, although the hashtag is trending.

    The campaign kicked off several weeks ago but intensified only after Tun Dr Mahathir and more than 50 opposition and civil society leaders signed what they termed the Citizens' Declaration, asking Mr Najib to step down.

    Among the signatories were Umno rebels, its deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin and former Kedah menteri besar Mukhriz Mahathir.

    In the anti-Najib camp, the change.org petition titled Quit! claimed that Malaysians are angry with the Prime Minister's poor leadership.

    "This is our country. Let's join our voices to build a better Malaysia," the petition said.

Tun Dr Mahathir's "Citizens' Alliance" of more than 50 prominent personalities includes former rivals who were jailed during his 22-year rule, such as opposition stalwarts Lim Kit Siang and Mohamed Sabu. The rainbow alliance is even backed by jailed opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim.

Dr Mahathir quit Umno just over a week ago for the second time, and sidled closer to his former political enemies after over a year of fruitlessly calling on the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) government to ditch Datuk Seri Najib.

Mr Najib has continued to fight claims of misuse of millions in funds raised by 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), including allegations that billions from the state investor ended up in his accounts. He has brushed aside calls for his resignation, insisting his government still enjoys a mandate to rule: "As far as we are concerned, the litmus test will be when it comes to election time. We have the numbers in Parliament and the party is also behind the government. We will continue."

The mounting attacks against Mr Najib have only resulted in critics being booted from government, a change of Attorney-General and the reconstitution of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee in the midst of its probe of 1MDB's books. Such moves have led to claims that Mr Najib abused his power, with the opposition insisting that removing him should be only the first step in a complete reform of government.

But in a sign that not everyone in the Citizens' Alliance is on the same page, Dr Mahathir's son Mukhriz - himself ousted as Kedah chief minister last month, having also been critical of the Premier - said last Saturday that a new government should still be headed by BN.

The opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan quickly refuted this assertion, pointing out yesterday that it has the largest block of MPs with those who want Mr Najib's exit.

"How many MPs does he (Mahathir) have? He needs us," opposition leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail told a press conference.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'End politics for narrow interests: Malaysian King'. Print Edition | Subscribe