Recent arrests in Malaysia's gay sex video scandal have put rivalries within the ruling Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) in the spotlight, after an aide to party president Anwar Ibrahim was remanded for his alleged involvement in the case.
Datuk Seri Anwar said he was surprised by Tuesday's arrest of his political secretary Farhash Mubarak in relation to the sexually explicit video clips. The clips allegedly feature his political rival, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, with former PKR youth leader Haziq Aziz.
"I was very surprised of course. I don't know why, but police may have their own reasons, therefore let the investigations proceed according to their course," Mr Anwar told reporters yesterday.
Mr Anwar denied his own involvement, saying insinuations about a higher-up being the mastermind behind the clips are "baseless".
Official and legal sources told The Straits Times that Mr Farhash, the Perak PKR chief, was picked up along with two others near Johor Baru on Tuesday night. He was remanded yesterday along with one of the other men for a further four days.
Mr Farhash had previously denied any involvement in circulating the clips, and called on Datuk Seri Azmin, who is also Economic Affairs Minister, to resign "if the evidence is overwhelmingly against him".
Another six people, including Mr Haziq - who had claimed Mr Azmin and himself were the two men in the video - were detained on Sunday and are in remand until Saturday.
"Besides Haziq, at least three others arrested so far are linked to PKR leaders," a source said.
Mr Azmin, who observers say is a growing threat to Mr Anwar's position as the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition's next prime minister, has denied being in the video and dismissed it as a plot from within the party to destroy his political career.
The clips sparked a furore within rival factions of PKR when they surfaced on June 11. After a lull, the war of words resumed on Monday.
Mr Anwar has insisted that the public wants to know if the video clips are authentic.
PKR information chief and Deputy Primary Industries Minister Shamsul Iskandar - who sacked Mr Haziq as his principal private secretary following the scandal - added that those implicated in wrongdoing should take leave from office.
Mr Azmin responded by telling him "not to be a hypocrite", while his ally, party vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin, said that "while police investigations close in on the mastermind behind this case, there are signs of panic among some quarters".
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday that it is up to Mr Azmin whether he wants to take leave or continue working, as individuals are innocent until proven guilty. "He can carry on - you are not guilty until proven (otherwise)," he said.
Mr Anwar said Tun Dr Mahathir's latest comments gave the impression that there is a new development in the investigation.
"I think if it is established that the video is real, then (Mr Azmin) should step down. But there is no confirmation yet," said Mr Anwar.
Mr Azmin responded yesterday that "new politics in new Malaysia" is "not one that is obsessed with the relentless acquisition of power by whatever means possible, including resorting to gutter politics".
Dr Mahathir also said the video is a political scheme. "It is not about exposing somebody's wrongdoings. It is about politics, in order to prevent somebody from being able to succeed in politics," he said.
How the saga unfolded
• Video clips of two men engaging in sexual acts are spread via the WhatsApp messaging app. One of the men is said to resemble a Cabinet minister.
• Some of the clips include images of purported fund transfers to the minister.
• Mr Haziq Aziz, a youth leader in the ruling Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), confesses that he was one of the men featured in the video clips. He claims that the other man in the video is Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali.
• Datuk Seri Azmin denies that he is in the video, and says it is a plot to destroy his political career.
• PKR issues a statement rejecting gutter politics and calls for an immediate end to the spread of the video clips.
• Mr Haziq is suspended from his duties as principal private secretary to the Deputy Minister of Primary Industries.
• Malaysian police detain Mr Haziq at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to aid investigations. He is released on police bail the following day.
• Mr Haziq is slapped with a show-cause letter by the PKR disciplinary board.
• Mr Haziq is sacked from his post at the Ministry of Primary Industries.
• Malaysia's anti-graft agency clears Mr Azmin of any wrongdoing over allegations of illegal fund transfers.
• Mr Haziq is expelled from PKR.
• Six people, including Mr Haziq, are detained and remanded until July 20.
• Three more suspects, including Mr Farhash Mubarak, political secretary to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, are arrested in Johor.
• Mr Farhash and one of the other suspects are remanded until July 20.