KUALA LUMPUR - Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim has said his daughter's recent criticism of the Mahathir Mohamad administration was aimed not just at the Prime Minister but also at other leaders from Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
In a report by the Malay Mail on Tuesday (March 26), Datuk Seri Anwar said: "I think the statement was not wholly aimed at Tun Mahathir, but also directed towards other (leaders) who voiced their opinions and attacked each other."
Mr Anwar's remarks come in the wake of controversy over his daughter and PKR lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar's comments in interviews with The Straits Times at the weekend (March 23 and 24), in which she said she was "broken-hearted" having to work once again with Tun Dr Mahathir, whom she described as a "former dictator".
Ms Izzah also said she would be serving her final term as an MP due to her disappointment with PH's performance and slow pace of reforms.
Speaking to reporters at the Parliament lobby, Mr Anwar, who is also the country's prime minister-in-waiting, reiterated that he, his family and PH support Dr Mahathir's leadership, and will give him the space needed to govern effectively.
However he appeared to also defend his daughter's remarks.
In the Malay Mail report, he said: "We give space, as this does not mean we cannot have differences in opinions, or offer criticism."
Mr Anwar also said the media was giving disproportionate attention to Ms Izzah's use of the phrase "former dictator" for Dr Mahathir.
In the Malay Mail report, he said: "The statements were made during an interview some time ago, and was blown up by the Singapore Straits Times, so why should we quarrel over it?"
Ms Izzah, in The Straits Times reports, had talked about strained personal ties with Dr Mahathir, who in his first stint as prime minister, sacked Mr Anwar as deputy prime minister in 1998 and later had him imprisoned.
She stood by her comments on Tuesday, saying the phrase “former dictator” was factually correct.
“I did not mean any harm certainly. ... I will continue to speak in favour of what is right and what is important,” the Permatang Pauh MP said, as quoted by The Star.
Ms Izzah's remarks had drawn criticism from several quarters, including from within her own party.
Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali, in a Twitter post on Monday, said: "This country needs doers who are prepared to tough it out all the way, not cry babies. Whatever it takes, we must make it work - if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."
Referring to the tweet, widely seen as disparaging of Ms Izzah, Mr Anwar said Datuk Seri Azmin,who is PKR deputy president, needed to cool down and focus on more important issues.
Said Mr Anwar: "I think he needs to cool himself a bit. I think he should always focus on the central issues. There are people who want to protect principles and ideals, and there are people who just (want) to defend their position at all costs."
PKR has long been dogged by speculation that it is split into two factions - one headed by Mr Anwar and the other led by Mr Azmin.
Meanwhile Dr Mahathir's political secretary Abu Bakar Yahya described Ms Izzah as being "immature, irrational and emotional", The Star reported.
PKR and Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia are two of the four member parties in the PH coalition. The other members are the Democratic Action Party and Parti Amanah Negara.
In a statement issued on Monday, Mr Abu Bakar said Ms Izzah should not have made negative comments about Dr Mahathir, especially to Singapore media.
Mr Anwar brushed off the aide's response.
He said: "That's his view, and I have stated our view, which is a reminder for all parties to understand and adhere to the agreement and understanding among us."