IPOH (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been accused of "betrayal" by a senior politician in his ruling coalition for welcoming seven lawmakers from the opposition Umno into the fold.
Mr Chang Lih Kang, a vice-president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), said Tun Dr Mahathir had gone back on his word of not accepting Umno deserters into the Pakatan Harapan camp.
"Dr Mahathir had firmly stated in May 2018 that Pakatan would not accept Umno turncoats into Pakatan parties," Mr Chang said in a statement on Tuesday (Feb 12) after Dr Mahathir formally inducted the seven lawmakers, including former Cabinet minister Hamzah Zainuddin, into the Prime Minister's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).
"It is rather disappointing that in less than a year, Dr Mahathir has gone back on his word," said Mr Chang, whose party is led by PM-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim.
"The people had made up their mind to oust Barisan in the 14th General Election and we should not go against their will to reinstate MPs from the former regime into the new government."
Besides Mr Hamzah, the other defectors are Datuk Seri Ikmal Hisham Abdul Aziz (Tanah Merah), Datuk Latiff Ahmad (Mersing), Datuk Rosol Wahid (Hulu Terengganu), Datuk Mohd Fasiah Mohd Fakeh (Sabak Bernam), Datuk Shahbudin Yahya (Tasik Gelugor) and Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin (Masjid Tanah).
Mr Chang said most of them had served in senior positions in the previous administration, with some even having been ministers and deputy ministers in former prime minister Najib Razak's Cabinet.
"They did not speak up for the people and the country when they were in power, but instead were accomplices of the corrupt regime."
"Even if some Barisan MPs are innocent angels, they should remain in the opposition, as democracy can only flourish with the presence of strong and able opposition," Mr Chang said.
He said the acceptance of the seven former Umno members would not strengthen the support of the Malays in rural areas.
"Felda settlers, peasants, fishermen, rubber tappers, plantation workers and the people in general merely want their lives to be improved."
"If the government could ease their hardship and grant them secure livelihoods, rural folks will support Pakatan, regardless of race," said Mr Chang.
"I urge the Pakatan Presidential Council to make a firm decision to reject Barisan MPs from joining any Pakatan component parties."