KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has insisted that where he sat during the one-day parliament sitting should not be the cause for his dismissal from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), a political party he founded in 2016.
His impromptu press conference at Bersatu headquarters in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, on Friday (May 29) afternoon came a day after he and four other Members of Parliament (MP) were sacked from the party for the reason that they had sat with the opposition bloc during the May 18 sitting.
"There is no provision in the (party) constitution regarding where I sit. I can sit anywhere, I have done nothing against the constitution.
"(Sitting with the opposition bloc) doesn't mean I have left the party. I can sit anywhere in parliament," he told reporters.
Dr Mahathir had in May 2018 led the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to an electoral victory and the formation of the federal government.
However, Mr Muhyiddin Yassin, who is Bersatu president, led the party out of PH in February this year. Dr Mahathir resigned as prime minister, triggering the collapse of the PH government.
Mr Muhyiddin then teamed up with Barisan Nasional (BN) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) to form the new ruling government. He was sworn in as the country's eighth prime minister.
READ: Mahathir won’t go quietly after being sacked, even as Muhyiddin consolidates power in Bersatu, say analysts
In the first parliament sitting since the installation of the new government, Dr Mahathir and four Bersatu MPs - Mr Mukhriz Mahathir, Mr Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, Mr Amiruddin Hamzah and Dr Maszlee Malik - did not sit with the Perikatan Nasional coalition led by Mr Muhyiddin.
They were informed that they have been sacked from the party in letters signed by Bersatu's executive secretary Muhammad Suhaimi Yahya on Thursday.
Dr Mahathir caused a stir at Bersatu headquarters on Friday when he turned up an hour before a scheduled press conference by party's secretary-general Hamzah Zainuddin to explain their dismissal from the party.
In his Friday press conference, Dr Mahathir, who was accompanied by the four MPs, also disputed the powers of Mr Muhammad Suhaimi, claiming that the position of an organising secretary is not listed in the party constitution.
He also disputed Mr Zainuddin's appointment as the party secretary-general, as former United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) members should not be allowed to hold positions in Bersatu.
WE WANT TO SACK MUHYIDDIN: MAHATHIR
Dr Mahathir insisted he is still Bersatu chairman during the press conference.
As to whether he would sack Mr Muhyiddin for taking Bersatu out of PH without the consent of the party's supreme leadership council, he answered in the affirmative.
“Yes, we want to sack him, but we have to sack him through a proper sitting of the supreme leadership council,” Dr Mahathir said.
Dr Mahathir also disputed the validity of the recent parliament sitting on May 18, as MPs only met for an hour and were not allowed to debate the king’s speech, which traditionally outlines the government’s agenda for the year.
"Because if it is not, the first meeting would have exceeded the period of six months, then we will become invalid," he said, referring to the article in the federal constitution which stipulates that the parliament must convene no later than six months after its last meeting.
"At this moment we have not been able to establish that yet, but that setting denies the essence of democracy (which has it that) the people who represent the voters must be able to speak, but this very meeting is very funny because it's confined to just hearing the king making a speech,” he said.
This was a denial of the democratic process, he said.
MAHATHIR'S MEMBERSHIP TERMINATED FOR BREACHING PARTY CONSTITUTION: HAMZAH
In a separate press conference at the party's headquarters after Dr Mahathir left, Mr Hamzah said Dr Mahathir and the four other MPs were not sacked, but had their memberships terminated for violating the party's constitution.
“I was saddened when Dr Mahathir and four other Bersatu MPs decided not to be with the government bloc during the parliament sitting on May 18," he said.
He said that according to the party constitution, one’s membership will be automatically nullified under Clause 10.2.2 if the person declares his exit from the party and under Clause 10.2.3 for joining or becoming a member of another political party.
Mr Hamzah added that there had been several complaints against Dr Mahathir, such as his announcement to remain with PH once the Perikatan Nasional government was formed under Mr Muhyiddin's leadership, as well as his proposed vote of no-confidence against the prime minister.
In his statement, Mr Hamzah said the party's decision to leave PH was made in a supreme leadership council meeting on Feb 23, which was chaired by Dr Mahathir.
He also defended his appointment as the party's secretary-general, as Mr Marzuki Yahya had already been relieved of his post by Mr Muhyiddin in March.