Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has rubbished claims by his former protege Najib Razak that a sex allegation surrounding a member of his current Cabinet team has been handled differently compared with a scandal in 1998.
Najib, who is facing a corruption trial, took to Twitter last Wednesday to allude to contrasting treatment of the two scandals.
In the tweet, he said: "In 1998. This was a moral issue, not political issue. In 2019. This is a political issue, not moral issue."
Although he did not name anyone, most observers believed Najib was referring to current Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali and then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who was sacked from the government in 1998 before being jailed subsequently for sodomy and corrupt practices.
In the latest scandal, Mr Haziq Aziz, former Santubong youth chief of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), claimed that video clips that went viral in multiple WhatsApp groups showed him having sex with Datuk Seri Azmin.
On July 20, Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police said the identities of the two men in the clips could not be fully ascertained.
In a blog post titled Contradiction, Tun Dr Mahathir said he has been accused of contradicting himself in his response to the recent sex scandal compared with events in 1998.
Dr Mahathir wrote on his personal blog Chedet.cc yesterday: "There is no contradiction. The action taken in 1998 was not based on the video clip. That came later. The court had already made its decision.
"The subsequent videos did not influence the court or anyone else. It did not influence me," he added, referring to videos implicating Datuk Seri Anwar.
In an earlier post on the blog last Tuesday, Dr Mahathir had repeated his claim that the video clips in the recent scandal were circulated "clearly for political purposes, specifically to block the success of a particular individual".
Since the clips emerged, Mr Azmin has denied vehemently that he was one of the men involved, claiming that it was a "nefarious plot" to ruin his reputation as well as his political career.
The scandal has ignited a feud between Mr Azmin and Mr Anwar, who had earlier called for his deputy at the PKR to resign as federal minister if he is indeed found to be one of the men in the sex clips.
Mr Anwar, the prime minister-in-waiting, is president of PKR, the largest component party of Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition. After he made the call, Mr Azmin responded by saying Mr Anwar should mind his own affairs.
There has since been speculation that Mr Azmin would leave PKR, but Mr Anwar has dismissed such talk.
Meanwhile, Mr Haziq was arrested with five other people for their alleged role in the scandal.
Dr Mahathir has promised to step down before the next general election, as agreed by the ruling coalition before last year's polls. While Mr Anwar has been the named successor, Dr Mahathir, his former nemesis, has also said whoever takes over must have the support of the majority, a statement seen to open the door to alternatives such as Mr Azmin.