Pakatan Harapan leaders back Mahathir, say he did not plot to form backdoor government

Malaysia's Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said the manoeuvre to form a unity government with opposition parties was a "treachery of some PH leaders". PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Leaders from Malaysia's Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition have come out in support of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who they say was not involved in a plot to form a new ruling pact with opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng, who is secretary-general of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), said on Monday (Feb 24) that the manoeuvre to form a unity government with opposition parties was a "treachery of some PH leaders", and named former Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Azmin Ali as one of those behind the plan.

He said Tun Dr Mahathir had resigned as prime minister on Monday afternoon on principle, after refusing to work with Umno.

"This is a PM who is principled. We feel he should be allowed to continue and allowed to finish what he intended to do," Mr Lim told reporters.

The PH coalition lost its majority in Parliament on Monday (Feb 24) after Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), which has 26 lawmakers, left the pact and 11 PKR MPs led by Datuk Seri Azmin exited the party.

Mr Lim said the DAP would propose at PH's emergency presidential council meeting that Dr Mahathir maintains his position as premier. The meeting is now scheduled for Tuesday.

Mr Lim said that last Friday's agreement among the coalition's party leaders to have Dr Mahathir stay on as premier until after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in November was "undermined and sabotaged".

He described the plot to form a backdoor government as "unconstitutional" and "against proper democratic practices".

"All these manipulations, political chicanery, it's like Game of Thrones. It's unnecessary drama when we are facing such an economy amid Covid-19," Mr Lim said referring to the coronavirus outbreak that originated in China and has killed more than 2,600 people.

"He (Dr Mahathir) doesn't want to work with Umno but Bersatu feels otherwise," Mr Lim added, referring to Dr Mahathir's party. "The problem lies with not only Bersatu but those from PKR who are now expelled, who want to work with Umno and other opposition parties to form a backdoor government."

PH had comprised four parties - PPBM, PKR, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara.

Dr Mahathir also stepped down as PPBM chairman following his resignation as premier. PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, whose plan to succeed Dr Mahathir under a PH agreement has been thwarted by the plot, also voiced his support for the 94-year-old premier to carry on as the country's leader.

Datuk Seri Anwar, who met with Dr Mahathir on Monday, said he had pleaded with Dr Mahathir to not resign as premier.

"This treachery could be dealt with together. But of course, he was of a different mind. He thought he shouldn't be treated in that manner, to be associated as working with those who are literally corrupt," Mr Anwar said.

Mr Anwar defended the premier, saying Dr Mahathir's name was used by those behind the new coalition.

Remote video URL

Other leaders from Amanah and from PH ally Parti Warisan Sabah also backed Dr Mahathir to continue as prime minister.

Amanah president Mohamad Sabu said: "May Allah bring strength to Tun to face this political turmoil."

On Monday morning, Amanah leader and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa tweeted: "The people's mandate is not about who, it is about wanting the country to be saved from existing selfish leaders and that is why PH was given the trust. The mandate changes only in General Election, not in gatherings at Sheraton Hotel counting seats while having dinner!"

His tweet included a photo of a dinner on Sunday night which some 130 MPs, including Mr Azmin, Umno president Zahid Hamidi, and PAS president Hadi Awang, had attended.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.