KUALA LUMPUR: Johor Crown Prince Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has the right to criticise the government, but he is not "above the law", said Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday (Apr 9).
As a Malaysian citizen, there is nothing to stop the crown prince from voicing his opinions, Dr Mahathir said during a press conference in the Parliament lobby.
“He can speak about anything like a normal citizen, can criticise the government as long as he doesn’t break the law. If he makes statements which can be considered seditious, we will take action against him," said Dr Mahathir.
“He is not above the law. In fact, nobody in Malaysia is above the law ... If he wants to be a politician, he can. But there is nothing to prevent any citizen of Malaysia from expressing his or her opinions."
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In response, the outspoken royal said on Twitter: "If I have to go down defending the constitution, the Malay rulers and Islam. By all means. You know where to find me.
"As an ordinary citizen, I have the right to ask questions and give opinions. I'm all yours. Finish what you start."
The crown prince has a track record of espousing his strong views toward government policies, especially via social media.
For instance, he has urged the federal government to invest in healthcare, including reviving a postponed public hospital in Pasir Gudang, instead of spending the money on building a “crooked bridge” between Johor and Singapore.
Earlier on Tuesday, the crown prince revealed on Twitter that his father had decreed that Johor Chief Minister Osman Sapian be replaced, confirming speculation that Mr Osman would be asked to leave.
“His Majesty has looked into changing the chief minister since months ago. Don’t forget, the power to appoint the chief minister is the sultan’s absolute right,” he said.
The crown prince claimed that there was another person eager to "claim credit and mileage" by appearing to be the one giving orders to change the chief minister.
“Enough with politicking,” he said, without naming the individual.
Last Friday, Malaysia said it would no longer join the International Criminal Court (ICC), with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad citing political pressure and "confusion among the rulers".
The signing was criticised as unconstitutional by the crown prince, who claimed that the Conference of Rulers were not consulted prior to the signing. He said that Malay rulers could fall victim to “orchestrated war crimes” by those wanting to see the fall of the royal institutions.
The crown prince also rebutted claims by Dr Mahathir last week for saying that Mr Osman had been aware of plans for a new shipping hub in the Johor Bahru port waters.
READ: Johor crown prince hits out at authorities over handling of Pasir Gudang chemical poisoning cases
Without naming him, he said on Facebook that the prime minister acted "unconstitutionally" over the state of project, and later uploaded a voice clip of a man, purportedly Mr Osman, saying that he had not “received any news”.
The crown prince has also criticised the way the authorities handled the Pasir Gudang chemical poisoning incident, in which more than 2,700 people were taken ill.