Pakatan Harapan denies issuing statement backing Mahathir

Earlier on March 25, 2019, a statement purportedly by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) secretariat team backed Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to remain as chairman of PH. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition has denied that a statement was issued on Monday (March 25) to voice its support for the leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

The coalition's chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah issued a short statement on this after local daily The Star published an article purportedly based on a statement by PH.

"Regarding a Pakatan Harapan secretariat statement shared today, I would like to inform that the statement is not valid. At this point, no statement has been issued," Datuk Saifuddin said on Twitter.

Earlier on Monday, a statement purportedly by the PH secretariat team consisting of Mr Saifuddin and the chief secretaries of all four component parties backed Tun Dr Mahathir to remain as chairman of PH and also urged caution to PH politicians when making statements.

The unvalidated statement published by The Star and Malay news daily Sinar Harian has been retracted from the papers' websites.

It came after Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar told The Straits Times that it was difficult working with Dr Mahathir again due to the strained personal ties stemming from her father Anwar Ibrahim's imprisonment in 1998 after he was sacked as deputy prime minister by Dr Mahathir.

Ms Izzah's frank remarks about the new government's slow pace in making reforms drew support from the public but a backlash from within the coalition.

Former PKR vice-president N. Surendran tweeted: "Is this acceptable? In the middle of the escalating water agreement dispute and a serious ongoing territorial conflict, a prominent Harapan MP calls the prime minister a 'former dictator who wreaked so much damage' in an interview to a leading Singapore daily."

Meanwhile, PKR deputy president and Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali posted a tweet which netizens took as criticism of Ms Izzah.

He said: "This country needs doers who are prepared to tough it out all the way, not crybabies. Whatever it takes, we must make it work. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."

When asked about the issue by reporters on Monday, PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said he will arrange a meeting with Ms Izzah soon to discuss the matter.

"I have not spoken to her (Nurul Izzah) over the matter. I prefer to meet her personally and find out what is the back story, and only then it is fair for me to comment on it," said Datuk Seri Saifuddin at a press conference after an event in Putrajaya, The Star reported.

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