KUALA LUMPUR: Mr Azmin Ali and 10 other members of parliament who quit Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) said on Monday (Feb 24) night that they are not traitors who betrayed the ruling coalition.
In a statement, the faction said their actions were merely a “proactive step” to put an end to what they said was a conspiracy to oust Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the prime minister in the middle of his term.
“We believe that forcing the prime minister to set a handover date is a malicious attempt to make the prime minister a ‘lame duck PM'," the group said.
The group added: "We firmly deny allegations of those who label us as traitors."
"Those who sought to oust the prime minister mid-term are the real traitors because they prioritise power transition over the implementation of government policies which are aimed at restoring the economy and improving the people's wellbeing."
“Our efforts prove that the said group is aware of the mistake they have committed, hence their statements supporting YAB Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to continue his role as prime minister until end of his term,” the statement read.
The exodus of the 11 MPs earlier on Monday, including four ministers and a deputy parliament speaker, came a day after PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim noted that there were efforts to break up Pakatan Harapan (PH) to form a new government.
Mr Anwar had said that those involved were former friends from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and a small group from PKR who has betrayed them.
On Monday, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin said the party has decided to leave PH.
On the heels of his announcement came Dr Mahathir’s resignation as prime minister and Bersatu chairman.
The king has accepted Dr Mahathir's resignation while appointing him as interim prime minister.
The issue of power transition has been repeatedly brought up since Dr Mahathir-led PH formed the new government after defeating Barisan Nasional in the 14th general election.
PH has reached a consensus for Dr Mahathir to serve as prime minister following the shock victory and for Mr Anwar to take over at a later date.
While Dr Mahathir has reiterated that he would honour his promise, the handover has become an issue of contention with different groups within PH holding different opinions on when it should happen.
As PH’s two-year anniversary in federal power neared, PKR politicians aligned to Mr Anwar grew more vocal in asking the coalition to fix a transition date.
Meanwhile, PKR politicians in Mr Azmin’s camp has openly supported Dr Mahathir to serve out his full term.
The topic was the main agenda of a PH presidential council meeting last Friday, which ended with Dr Mahathir saying that he should decide when he would step down and Mr Anwar giving him the full support to carry out his duties.
A surprising turn of events ensued on Sunday when Mr Azmin's faction in PKR and Bersatu had an audience with the Malaysian king together with four other political parties not in the PH coalition.
In the statement issued late Monday night, Mr Azmin and his colleagues said they had witnessed how some PH leaders pressured Dr Mahathir on Friday to set a date to hand over to Mr Anwar.
The matter has diverted the public’s attention away from economic recovery and institutional reforms, and eroded the confidence of people and investors in the PH government, they said.
The group said they wanted to safeguard confidence in the stability and implementation of the government's policies.