Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), yesterday issued a closely watched statement over a sex scandal roiling Malaysia involving his deputy Azmin Ali.
Reading from the statement after the monthly political bureau meeting of PKR, Mr Anwar, 71, said the party rejects the "gutter politics" that the country is witnessing today.
"The country must focus on issues of economic and social development, and not be dragged into a dirty cauldron," he said. "Keadilan hopes that Datuk Seri Azmin and his family will remain calm and patient in facing this big challenge."
Mr Anwar's comments on the issue were his first. These are closely watched amid some suspicion that the factional infighting in the PKR involving his group and Mr Azmin's led to the release of the sex videos.
Still others have speculated that some Umno leaders were the hidden hands behind the videos.
The video clips allegedly involved Mr Azmin, 54, and another man.
Sodomy and oral sex are outlawed in Malaysia, and homosexual relations are deeply taboo, but it is currently unclear if the sordid video contains evidence of a crime.
Earlier yesterday, a PKR politician who works for the government, Mr Muhammad Haziq Abdul Aziz, 27, said in a Facebook video that he was one of the men featured in the video clips. He named Economic Affairs Minister Azmin as the other man in the clips.
Mr Azmin yesterday vehemently denied it was him.
Before the meeting of the political bureau at PKR headquarters, Mr Anwar told reporters that he had spoken to Mr Azmin over the issue, but did not reveal what they had discussed.
"I called him on the phone and we had a long discussion. We had a long talk yesterday (Tuesday)," Mr Anwar said, as quoted by The Star newspaper.
In the statement, Mr Anwar said PKR supports the investigations by police and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission into the sex videos and allegations of corruption involving Mr Azmin.
Mr Anwar told a news conference: "I thought what I experienced should be the last - unfortunately this trend seems to continue; and it's deplorable, it's sickening and I do not in any way understand why this should continue and naturally I'm strongly opposed to this from the moral POV (point of view), Islamic POV, ethical POV."
He added: "The whole spirit of morality and ethics - this is not the way we should be judged or assessed in politics and society."
Mr Anwar's political career was stunted in 1998 following allegations of sexual misconduct that roiled Malaysian politics for two decades. He had rejected the claims and started the Reformasi movement against the Barisan Nasional government that was then led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Mr Anwar was accused of sodomy a second time in 2008 and jailed in 2014 before being pardoned after the Pakatan Harapan alliance triumphed in the May 2018 elections.
Answering a question on whether PKR believes it was an inside job, Mr Anwar said: "We have no evidence to suggest that the party is in any way involved."