Malaysian King postpones meetings until after movement curbs are over

Opposition leaders Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu were supposed to have an audience with the King on Oct 14 and 21 respectively.
Opposition leaders Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu were supposed to have an audience with the King on Oct 14 and 21 respectively.PHOTOS: AFP, ST FILE

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) – Malaysia’s King has postponed all meetings scheduled for the next two weeks due to coronavirus curbs, a senior palace official said on Wednesday (Oct 14), as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim bids to replace Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Datuk Seri Anwar met Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah on Tuesday to prove he has a “convincing” parliamentary majority to form a new government.

The King had been scheduled to meet top leaders from key political parties to verify support for Mr Anwar, but all appointments have been postponed due to a two-week partial lockdown in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur and the state of Selangor which took effect on Wednesday, palace comptroller Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said.

New dates will only be decided after the curbs are lifted, Mr Ahmad Fadil said.

Should Mr Anwar succeed in his bid to become prime minister, it would be the culmination of a 22-year long quest, which included nearly 10 years in jail on sodomy charges he denied. It would also mean Malaysia would have its third prime minister this year.

The monarch had earlier postponed audiences with opposition leaders Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu.

Mr Lim, secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), and Mr Mohamad, president of Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah), said in a press statement on Wednesday that they were initially scheduled to meet Sultan Abdullah at Istana Negara on Wednesday and Oct 21, respectively.

“However, yesterday His Royal Highness’ senior private secretary informed us that both the sessions before His Majesty have been postponed,” they said.

The comptroller of the royal household said that the national palace was in a “semi-lockdown”, similar to the conditional movement control order (CMCO) imposed on the Klang Valley - the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya and Selangor state. The CMCO started at 12.01am on Wednesday and will end on Oct 27.

It was understood that Mr Lim and Mr Mohamad were summoned by the Palace after Sultan Abdullah held an audience on Tuesday with Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar, who claimed that he has presented the King with evidence of 120 MPs backing him, in the 222-seat Parliament to replace PM Muhyiddin as the prime minister.

Umno veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah was also seen entering the Palace after Mr Anwar left on Tuesday.

Mr Lim and Mr Mohamad, both Mr Anwar's partners in the Pakatan Harapan coalition, have said that they would support Mr Anwar if he indeed has the numbers to form the government.

But Mr Lim also expressed his discomfort about working with Umno, Malaysia's largest ruling party, whose MPs were speculated to be among those supporting Mr Anwar’s bid to topple Tan Sri Muhyiddin.

The Istana Negara said that while Mr Anwar did say how many lawmakers are behind him, he “did not present a list of the MPs’ names to support his claim”.

The Palace had also scheduled an audience with Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and the chief of Malaysian Indian Congress, Mr S.A. Vigneswaran, on Thursday.

Mr Vigneswaran said he is sceptical about Mr Anwar's plan.

"Anwar has not provided any names to the King and if he does not produce any names, then any Tom, Dick and Harry can say they have the numbers," said Mr Vigneswaran, as quoted by The Star.

The King plays a largely ceremonial role but he can appoint a prime minister who in his view is likely to command a majority.

In February, at the height of wrangling that saw the collapse of the administration of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad, the King appointed Mr Muhyiddin prime minister after consulting every member of Parliament.

Mr Muhyiddin has a two-seat parliamentary majority and critics say he came to power through shifting alliances and not earning it at the ballot box.

Malaysia reported 660 new coronavirus cases and four deaths on Tuesday, raising its tally to 16,880 cases and 163 fatalities.