PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman has cited demands from Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, which made him “immensely uncomfortable”, as the reason behind their sour ties, the Star reported on Wednesday (Apr 24).
Mr Syed Saddiq claimed that the crown prince made demands that were political in nature before the last general election, and then “specific demands” after the election which he could not fulfil.
Mr Syed Saddiq, 27, is Malaysia’s youngest ever federal minister. He is the MP for Muar - a constituency in Johor - as well as the youth chief of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
He told reporters on Tuesday: “If you noticed the day I announced my candidacy in Muar, (the crown prince) released the open letter asking Johoreans and Malaysians to not jump ship and to stick to United Malays National Organisation and Barisan Nasional.”
Mr Syed Saddiq claimed that one of the crown prince’s requests was to cancel the Manny Pacquiao fight in Kuala Lumpur last year.
He said he could not give in to the demand because it would cause a diplomatic crisis - numerous dignitaries, including Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, would be in town to watch the high-profile bout.
“(Tens of millions of ringgit) would have been lost because it was to be broadcast live on 100 international channels,” Mr Syed Saddiq said, adding that then Sports Commissioner Zaiton Othman and him had to seek an audience with the crown prince over the matter.
While stressing that he still respects the crown prince, the minister said his priority was to serve the people and uphold his principles instead of pleasing certain parties.
“Being a young politician, I personally believe that if I don’t stick to my politics or principles, I will lose myself very early on. For the sake of what? To appeal to specific groups? My intention in politics is to clean Malaysia and its politics.
“I still humbly respect him (Tunku Ismail) as the future Sultan of Johor, but our disagreements will always be there," he said, according to the Star.
The vocal royal member has yet to respond to the minister’s allegations.
Widely perceived as Dr Mahathir’s blue-eyed boy, Mr Syed Saddiq's Tuesday revelation has once again turned the spotlight on the feud between the Johor royal family and Dr Mahathir.
The prime minister had a strained relationship with the Johor royals in his first premiership, during which he clipped the wings of the sultans through amending the federal constitution.
Since scoring a shock election victory last May, Dr Mahathir has engaged in a war of words with the Johor royal members over issues such as the appointment of the state’s chief minister, the recently announced Johor shipping hub project and the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.