Saturday, November 28, 2020

Top PH meeting ‘silent’ on Anwar-Zahid-Najib plan

Leaders did not address the elephant in the room but focused on the dilemma of supporting next week's budget.

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There was no mention of the now well-known collaboration between Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Anwar Ibrahim and top Umno leaders when leaders of the opposition coalition met yesterday, MalaysiaNow has learnt.

The situation was a stark contrast to the controversy created about a decade ago, when PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang mooted the idea of a “unity government” which included the political enemies of Pakatan Rakyat.

Pakatan Rakyat was formed by PAS, PKR and DAP following their gains in the 2008 election. The coalition collapsed in 2015 after bickering between PAS and DAP.

“The elephant in the room was not addressed,” said an aide to one of the leaders who attended the PH meeting yesterday.

“The discussion was on the upcoming budget, and how the coalition should respond to the royal statement a day earlier (Wednesday),” the aide added, referring to a statement from the palace urging MPs to support the budget to be tabled next week for the sake of ensuring funds in the battle against Covid-19.

The latest PH meeting followed the revelation that a triumvirate comprising Anwar, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former prime minister Najib Razak had attempted to engineer the downfall of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, led by Muhyiddin Yassin, through the defection of a group of Umno MPs.

But unlike PH, Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs and the Umno Supreme Council had at separate meetings held heated debates on the matter.

“The elephant in the room was not addressed.”

This week, Najib, a key target of PH’s 2018 general election campaign in the wake of the 1MDB scandal, admitted that he had asked BN MPs to support Anwar’s prime ministerial ambitions.

Earlier this month, MalaysiaNow’s revelation that Zahid had written to the palace expressing support for Anwar – two days before the PKR chief’s royal audience with the Agong to show proof of his majority support – had riled up senior Umno leaders.

MalaysiaNow also revealed details of “tense” private meetings at Muhyiddin’s house in Bukit Damansara after the prime minister was given a copy of the letter, co-signed by Najib.

Zahid backtracked on his support for Anwar following pressure from the Umno leadership and was forced to issue at least two statements – including one late last night – declaring support for the PN government of which Umno is a part.

His about-turn also followed two royal warnings this week against any attempt at destabilising the government amid an increasingly difficult battle to contain the Covid-19 pandemic which has claimed more than 100 lives this month, about half of the total fatalities recorded since the virus was detected in Malaysia early this year.

Demand to be part of budget drafting

The aide to a former minister who spoke to MalaysiaNow said the silence of the PH leadership on the Anwar-Zahid cooperation was “understandable”, as many coalition leaders felt that they now faced a bigger hurdle.

“And that is how to go around an unprecedented royal directive that they support the upcoming budget,” the aide added.

The directive was issued by the palace amid fears that any move to shoot down the budget, to be tabled next Friday, could lead to the collapse of Muhyiddin’s government and trigger a pandemic-season general election.

“There has been a proposal to interpret the statement by the Comptroller of the Royal Household on Wednesday to the advantage of PH, including a demand that Muhyiddin makes consultation with the opposition in drafting the budget.

“It’s an impossible demand,” the aide added, “but it was felt adequate to justify the opposition not supporting the budget bill despite the royal call.”

MalaysiaNow’s attempts to obtain comments from key PH leaders have so far failed.

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