KUALA LUMPUR: Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) President Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday (Nov 19) urged his deputy, Mr Azmin Ali, to explain the circumstances surrounding a meeting that allegedly took place between him and opposition lawmakers.
This came after Mr Azmin, who is also the Economic Affairs Minister, reportedly met some opposition figures in his residence to discuss how to shore up support for Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
There have been calls for Dr Mahathir to step down and hand over to Mr Anwar after Pakatan Harapan (PH) was soundly defeated in last weekend’s Tanjung Piai by-election.
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Speaking to reporters, Mr Anwar said that Mr Azmin will need to attend PKR’s political bureau meeting on Wednesday to explain the matter.
“Surely we will ask for his explanation. It has created a lot of questions from our partners so he should come forward to give his side (of the story),” Mr Anwar was quoted as saying by the Star.
When asked in what capacity Mr Azmin met with the opposition lawmakers, Mr Anwar replied that he was unsure.
“That is why we want his explanation whether it is representing the government or party. If it's based on his capacity as the government, why weren’t other lawmakers invited?” Mr Anwar added.
There have been signs of Mr Anwar and Mr Azmin being at odds, with the latter choosing to stay away from several important party events recently.
On Monday night, more than 20 lawmakers from PKR and the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) are said to have gathered at Mr Azmin’s residence in Putrajaya.
It is believed that the meeting was about shoring up support in parliament for Dr Mahathir to remain as prime minister. The UMNO lawmakers are said to have been led by former UMNO vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein.
Following Mr Anwar's comments, Mr Azmin has downplayed the significance of the event.
“It was a normal meeting. We didn’t discuss anything extraordinary ... I am open to anyone who wants to meet me,” he was quoted as saying by Malay Mail on Tuesday.
The minister also said that he will attend the political bureau meeting if his schedule allows.
MEET UP CRITICISED BY PKR LEADERS
The purported meeting has hit a raw nerve among PKR leaders.
PKR’s vice president Xavier Jayakumar said on Tuesday that the PH presidential council was not told of the meeting, adding that any PH leader who wishes to meet with other parties must inform the council.
“The PH presidential council makes decisions collectively with all component parties on any matters and this process must be followed,” he said, according to Malay Mail.
PKR information chief Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin was also quoted as saying by Malay Mail: “I don’t have any concrete evidence except for viral WhatsApp messages … believe it would disappoint the people and the best way to describe it is that it betrays the trust of the public if a meeting like this occurred”.
UMNO TO INVESTIGATE INCIDENT
UMNO’s disciplinary board has said that it will launch an investigation into the alleged meeting.
But Mr Hishammuddin has denied leading the meeting. In a tweet, he said allegations that he has presided over the meeting between Mr Azmin and the opposition lawmakers were untrue.
“It wasn't me who planned the meeting. However, if the UMNO disciplinary board wants to investigate me, I'm ready to be investigated. I have nothing to hide,” said the former defence minister.
Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir said on Tuesday that he is aware of the meeting held at Mr Azmin’s home.
However, he said he did not know what transpired during the meeting and refused to comment further.
“I heard about it, but I don’t know what they talked about,” he told reporters.