Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told the largest party in his government yesterday not to be distracted from fulfilling its pledges and responsibilities to the public after a fractious week for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), whose leaders are split over gay sex allegations levelled against its deputy president Azmin Ali.
"We must ask ourselves whether we will retain the mandate from the people if they continue to see us bickering for power, unaware that these squabbles are why we will lose power," Tun Dr Mahathir, the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman, said when officiating PKR's weekend retreat in Port Dickson.
PKR president Anwar Ibrahim had also pledged that the party will "stand united in addressing the plight of the people", ahead of the retreat's opening.
Datuk Seri Azmin and most leaders aligned to him were absent.
The closed-door retreat was held after a week-long escalating war of words among leaders of PKR. The party has 50, or 39 per cent, of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition's 129 MPs.
Datuk Seri Anwar, 71, who is supposed to succeed Dr Mahathir, 94, under a transition plan agreed by PH leaders, posted on Twitter yesterday evening: "Let's take a step back and not lose sight of the issues that matter."
Earlier yesterday, six PKR state chiefs expressed support for Mr Anwar after he came under fire from an opposing faction on Thursday for not supporting Datuk Seri Azmin, 54.
The six - out of 14, including the combined federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya - signed a statement saying they stood "firmly behind him in facing any challenges and efforts by those who want to weaken our party".
"We give full and undivided commitment to him in his efforts to lead the country to what is desired by the public," said Kedah PKR chief Johari Abdul, representing the six.
RETAIN PEOPLE'S MANDATE
We must ask ourselves whether we will retain the mandate from the people if they continue to see us bickering for power, unaware that these squabbles are why we will lose power.
PRIME MINISTER MAHATHIR MOHAMAD
Let's take a step back and not lose sight of the issues that matter.
PKR PRESIDENT ANWAR IBRAHIM
PLEDGING SUPPORT FOR ANWAR
We give full and undivided commitment to him in his efforts to lead the country to what is desired by the public.
KEDAH PKR CHIEF JOHARI ABDUL, representing six PKR state chiefs.
He said that "God willing", all 14 state leaders - appointed at Mr Anwar's discretion as president - would sign their statement of support for the president at the retreat.
However, 13 women's wing state chiefs then called for the police to prosecute those behind the sexually explicit video, purportedly of Mr Azmin and a sacked PKR grassroots youth leader. The 13 were appointed by the wing's head Haniza Talha, known to be aligned with Mr Azmin, who denies being in the clips that went viral last month.
The police have said that while they cannot confirm the identity of the two men in the videos, the mastermind behind their circulation is a leader of a political party who paid hundreds of thousands of ringgit for its production.
This was after the arrests of nine people from Sunday to Tuesday. Those arrested included Mr Anwar's political secretary Farhash Mubarak and several other party members.
These statements, supporting one side or the other, came a day after 23 of the 64 members of the central leadership council chastised Mr Anwar for saying that Mr Azmin should resign if it was confirmed that the minister was in the videos.
Significantly, the signatories included 20 of the 27 who won their places in the party's highest decision-making body at last November's party polls, with the rest of the leadership later appointed by the president.
A top adviser to Mr Azmin, Datuk Khalid Jaafar, also called on Mr Anwar to retire from politics.
Mr Anwar said on Thursday that he accepted the views expressed in the Thursday joint statement and needed "to be magnanimous enough to accept the fact that I need to lead a coherent, united party".
Mr Anwar has denied any link to the sex video scandal, saying insinuations that he is the mastermind behind the clips are "baseless".
Mr Farhash, the Perak PKR chief, had also earlier denied circulating the clips which surfaced on June 11 and instead called on Mr Azmin to resign "if the evidence is overwhelmingly against him".