Mahathir and Tengku Razaleigh to 'cooperate', urge MPs to think of country in final budget vote
KUALA LUMPUR: Former political rivals Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tengku Razaleigh Tengku Mohd Hamzah urged Malaysia's Members of Parliament (MP) to put the country ahead of their personal or party interests when the 2021 budget is tabled for third reading on Tuesday (Dec 15).
In a joint press conference on Monday, the two local political veterans said they had come together as they hoped to help Malaysia recover and further develop the country's economy from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout.
"We have people who come to meet us, asking whether we can do something about the situation. This government is only involved in politics for themselves," said Dr Mahathir.
"There is no strategy to repair the economy and also handle the COVID-19 situation. Ministers are plenty, up till 30 over, but they don't seem to be doing anything, no experience," he said.
The Lower House is currently in session. The Supply Bill has been tabled and passed at policy stage, and the third and final vote is scheduled to take place tomorrow.
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Initially seen largely as a confidence vote against the leadership of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the Supply Bill has been tabled and passed at the policy stage. The allocations for each ministry, debated at the committee stage, have also been passed by either bloc voting or voice vote.
Dr Mahathir, 95, said in the press conference that Mr Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional (PN) government may fall if it loses the vote.
"If it loses, then we have no government. Then there is a need to form a government."
"But when we want to form a government, we hope that they take a government that is dedicated to serving the country and the people. Not because I want to be a prime minister, not because I want to be a menteri (minister), so I can get good pay.
"That is the hope that the wakil rakyat (MPs) will choose wisely," Dr Mahathir said.
Asked if he will be leading the new government again, he said: "If everybody supports me, I'll be prime minister tomorrow."
JOIN FORCES FOR THE COUNTRY
In the press conference, the duo also said they were willing to cooperate and contribute their respective experience in politics and administration.
"The government has changed. (Politicians were sold and bought) and such politics is not for the country.
"We are of the opinion that we have to revive policies to develop the country, not for ourselves or our parties, but to develop the country. This is why the two of us are cooperating," Dr Mahathir said.
Tengku Razaleigh, 83, added: "I am here, sharing the platform with (Dr Mahathir), purely because I want to make sure that we have a legitimate government. The government we have today is not a legitimate government, and the PM today is not the legitimate PM."
Asked whether he would be able to draw some support from MPs for Tuesday's vote in his capacity as United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) Advisory Council Chairman, the former finance minister said: "Maybe."
The joint press conference came a few months after the duo were said to have met for dinner.
A photo of them at the latter’s residence had sparked speculation of political cooperation back in October.
Both Dr Mahathir and Tengku Razaleigh have been outspoken in their opposition to the leadership of current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and have individually called for a no confidence vote against Mr Muhyiddin in the parliament.
In September, Tengku Razaleigh wrote to parliament Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun calling for a guarantee that a no confidence vote be held against Mr Muhyiddin in the current parliament meeting.
Dr Mahathir, who served as Malaysia's prime minister twice, was formerly the president of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).
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A member of the Kelantan royal family, Tengku Razaleigh had vied with Dr Mahathir for control of UMNO in the late 1980s, eventually precipitating a political and constitutional crisis that split the party in two.
His splinter party, Semangat 46 (Spirit of 46, referring to 1946 when the first UMNO was founded), was eventually disbanded in 1996, while he rejoined UMNO.
Tengku Razaleigh is the longest serving MP in Malaysia since 1974.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir, who retired from politics in 2003, re-emerged to form Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and work with opposition parties under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to wrest federal power from Barisan Nasional (BN) in 2018.
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However, Mr Muhyiddin, as party president, led Bersatu out of PH in February this year and joined forces with BN and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia to replace PH as the federal government instead.
Dr Mahathir resigned as prime minister and was subsequently sacked from Bersatu in May for sitting with the PH bloc in the parliament.
He went on to found a third party called Parti Pejuang Tanah Air with several other MPs sacked at the same time from Bersatu.
PAKATAN HARAPAN URGES MPS TO REJECT BUDGET
In a statement on Monday evening, PH urged all MPs, be it in the opposition camp or the government side, to reject the budget at its third reading on Tuesday.
The joint statement signed off by the secretaries-general of its component parties said the announcements by Minister for Finance Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz did not meet the requests and expectations of many MPs as well as that of the people.
"This budget does not fulfil the aims and objectives of fighting COVID-19, helping the citizenry and reviving the economy, so choose to reject its third reading tomorrow," it said.
In the Monday press conference, Dr Mahathir said he was not in discussion with opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as the latter has "had no contact" with him. Mr Anwar was twice considered his heir apparent.
In addition, Dr Mahathir said even though Mr Anwar was opposition leader, he did not command the majority of the opposition MPs.
"We are not under him, he is named opposition leader but he doesn't control us.
"We can do what we like, that is a given where parliament is concerned, so I have no need to pledge support or loyalty to an opposition leader," Dr Mahathir said.