PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Several Members of Parliament from the Barisan Nasional's (BN) main opposition Umno party met at Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali's official residence on Monday night (Nov 18), prompting questions from Datuk Seri Azmin's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) party and an investigation by the Umno disciplinary board.
Datuk Seri Azmin reportedly met with 22 Umno MPs, including Umno's former vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein, at the minister's house in Putrajaya.
It was unclear, however, what was the motive for the meeting, which came days after the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) was heavily defeated by the BN in the by-election for Tanjung Piai in Johor on Saturday.
The meeting was also attended by several MPs from Mr Azmin's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) party, including Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin and Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Kamaruddin Jaffar, among others.
Following the meeting, Datuk Seri Anwar, the PKR president, on Tuesday called for his deputy, Mr Azmin, to give an explanation for why the meeting had been called.
“It has created a lot of questions from our (alliance) partners so he should come forward to give his side (of the story), ” said Mr Anwar.
Asked on what capacity Mr Azmin met with the opposition lawmakers, Mr Anwar said that he was unsure.
“That is why we want his explanation whether it is representing the government or party," he said. “If it based on his capacity as the government, why weren’t other lawmakers invited?” Mr Anwar said at the Parliament lobby.
The Star, citing a source, said that Mr Azmin will also hold another meeting, this time with all of the PKR deputy president’s fellow party MPs, that is scheduled for later Tuesday at the Parliament.
The Tanjung Piai by-election saw the BN's Malaysian Chinese Association candidate Wee Jeck Seng win with an overwhelming 15,086-vote majority against the PH candidate from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia party. Bersatu and the PKR are both part of the four-member PH alliance.
The by-election loss was the worst by-election defeat for PH since taking over the federal government last year. Following its crushing defeat, several PH lawmakers had called for Tun Mahathir, the PH chairman, to shoulder the blame for the loss and step aside for Mr Anwar, his designated successor.
Dr Mahathir had previously said he would hand over the reins to Datuk Seri Anwar, the PKR president, as part of an agreement reached before last year's general election, though no exact date had been stated.
Dr Mahathir on Tuesday told reporters he was aware of the meeting but did not know what was discussed. "I heard about it, but I don't know what they talked about," he said during a press conference.
Separately, Umno's disciplinary board said on Tuesday it will also be launching an investigation on the meeting between the Umno MPs and Mr Azmin.
The investigation followed a complaint from Umno supreme council member Lokman Noor Adam accusing Mr Hishammuddin of having organised the gathering.
Datuk Lokman had also urged the party to take action against Mr Hishammuddin for his alleged involvement in influencing party leaders to support the leadership of Dr Mahathir.
"The disciplinary board will take immediate action by investigating the matter using existing procedures in making a decision," Umno's disciplinary board chairman Mohamed Apandi Ali said.
But Mr Hishammuddin, who is the Sembrong MP, said the accusation that he led the meeting was "not true".
"It was not me who planned the meeting. But, if the Umno's disciplinary board wants to investigate me, I am ready," he said on his Twitter account. "There is nothing for me to hide," he added.