JOHOR BARU - Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian is expected to meet Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (April 8), with his press secretary downplaying speculation the meeting is being called as Datuk Osman is set to be replaced.
Mr Abdul Hakim Ab Rahman said that Mr Osman was only having a "scheduled meeting" with Tun Mahathir ahead of the two-day annual leaders' retreat between Malaysia and Singapore that begins on Monday, The Star reported.
"The Menteri Besar wanted to meet the Prime Minister as he wanted to discuss preparations for a major meeting," the news website quoted Mr Abdul Hakim as telling reporters on Sunday (April 7).
"There will be a pre-council meeting for the delegation and dinner in conjunction with the ninth leaders' retreat between Malaysia and Singapore," he said, adding that early preparation for meetings was a norm.
Talk is rife that Mr Osman will be replaced. The Malay Mail news website reported that WhatsApp text messages claiming Mr Osman was to be replaced have been circulating online amid tensions between the federal government and the Johor royal family.
Those said to be in line for the Mentri Besar post include Johor Health, Environment and Agriculture Committee chairman Sahruddin Jamal from Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and the Parti Keadilan Rakyat's state Youth, Sports and Culture Committee chairman Mohd Khuzzan Abu Bakar.
The Malaysiakini news website, citing sources, had earlier on Sunday reported that the meeting between Dr Mahathir and Mr Osman was taking place on Monday.
Speculation over Mr Osman's future comes after the Crown Prince of Johor Tunku Ismail Ibrahim accused the federal government last week of bulldozing over Johor's jurisdiction with its announcement that it was developing a ship-to-ship hub slated to be built in waters off the state.
Tunku Ismail had also voiced his concern about the government's plan to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Dr Mahathir announced last Friday that the government had decided to make a U-turn and withdraw from ratifying the treaty after a backlash from the country's royals and opposition politicians who argued that the treaty threatens the sovereignty of the Malay rulers.