PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders have refuted a news report that the country's oldest coalition will be suspended.
Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the chairman of Barisan and the president of Umno, said the claim in the article was not true.
He added, however, that it would be a good move as it would allow the coalition members to talk to other parties to chart their own future.
Mr Zahid's deputy Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan added that Barisan had never discussed the matter. "There is no such thing," he said.
Tan Sri Annuar Musa, the secretary-general of Umno, which chairs the coalition, had told news site The Malaysian Insight (TMI) that Barisan Nasional had been temporarily suspended to explore partnerships with other political parties.
Umno was going through a "new phase" and the Barisan component parties needed to be pragmatic and look at the possibility of working with other parties.
"We have decided that component parties must take care of themselves, for the time being."
"BN, for the time being, needs to be suspended for a little while. Let us try a new approach," Mr Annuar said, referring to the coalition by its acronym.
On Friday, however, Mr Annuar said his remarks during an interview with the portal had been taken out of context.
He said there had never been any decision to suspend Barisan.
"I'm just the Umno secretary-general and I have no authority to speak about Barisan," said the Ketereh MP.
Mr Annuar added if Barisan was to be suspended, it was a big story and the news should have come from Barisan and not from Umno secretary-general.
The country's longest-serving coalition governed Malaysia for over six decades until its shock election defeat in May, where it won only 79 of the 222 seats in Parliament.
From a grand pact of 13 parties, Barisan is now left with three parties - Umno, Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC).
The departure of several parties, mainly from Sabah and Sarawak, after the election loss, leaves Barisanwith 54 parliamentary seats, most of them held by Umno MPs.