Malaysia's ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition has denied that a statement was issued yesterday to voice its support for the leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The coalition's chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah issued a short refutation 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 yesterday.
Earlier yesterday, a statement purportedly by the PH secretariat team consisting of Mr Saifuddin and chief secretaries of all four component parties backed Tun Dr Mahathir to remain as chairman of PH, and also urged caution to PH politicians in making statements.
The statement published by The Star and Malay news daily Sinar Harian was later retracted from the papers' websites.
A sighting by The Straits Times of the fake statement, which circulated via WhatsApp, made reference to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) lawmaker Nurul Izzah Anwar's interview with The Straits Times recently, and stated that while the coalition welcomes constructive criticism, politicians need to be mindful of their words.
It came after Ms Izzah told The Straits Times that it was difficult working with Dr Mahathir again due to 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 over the new government's slow pace in making reforms have invited support from the public but backlash from within the coalition.
Former PKR vice-president N. Surendran took to Twitter and said: "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 Economics Affairs Minister Azmin Ali posted a tweet that netizens took as criticism of Ms Izzah: "This country needs doers who are prepared to tough it out all the way, not cry babies. Whatever it takes, we must make it work. If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen."
However, PKR lawmaker Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad defended Ms Izzah, tweeting: "When a lady makes a stand, call her a cry baby? Cheap, very cheap."
The party's secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said that he would meet Ms Izzah to discuss her comments to The Straits Times.
Dr Mahathir's partymen from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) defended the Prime Minister from the "dictator" label.
PPBM's Supreme Council member Tariq Ismail told the Free Malaysia Today news portal: "If Tun was still a dictator, he would have an entire Cabinet of PPBM ministers."