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I was fair in appointing ministers, Dr M responds to claims of preference for ‘Azmin’s men’

The former prime minister says the line between Anwar Ibrahim's supporters and those of Azmin Ali was 'not very clear' at the time.

2 minute read
Dr Mahathir Mohamad during an interview with MalaysiaNow at his office at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad during an interview with MalaysiaNow at his office at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad says he never ignored PKR’s list of candidates in the appointment of Cabinet members following Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) election victory, adding that the ministers were chosen based on their merit.

He also said it was not true that he had sidelined PKR leaders aligned with Anwar Ibrahim while showing preference to those seen as being in the camp of the party’s deputy president, Mohamed Azmin Ali.

“I didn’t know who they were,” the former prime minister told MalaysiaNow in a recent interview at his office in Putrajaya.

“At the time, it was not clear. Azmin and Anwar’s quarrel had not really crystallised yet, people didn’t know. We know they avoided each other,” said Mahathir.

Supporters of Anwar had questioned Mahathir’s selection of ministers from PKR in the Cabinet line-up for the PH government, which also comprised Bersatu, DAP and Warisan.

Last month, PKR’s Fahmi Fadzil said his party and Umno had suffered the same fate when their hierarchies were ignored by the prime minister of the day in the appointment of ministers.

“The list of ministers from PKR in Mahathir’s administration was not the party list,” the Lembah Pantai MP said in an online programme.

After he was sworn in as prime minister in the aftermath of the 2018 election, Mahathir took Azmin out of Selangor, where he had been the menteri besar, to fill a new portfolio for economic affairs under the Prime Minister’s Department.

Mahathir also appointed Zuraida Kamaruddin (housing), Saifuddin Abdullah (foreign affairs) and Baru Bian (works), none of whom was seen as part of Anwar’s camp in PKR.

He made Anwar’s wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, deputy prime minister in charge of the ministry for women and family affairs while Saifuddin Nasution was appointed to the consumer affairs ministry and Xavier Jayakumar, natural resources. Xavier has since renounced his support for Anwar and quit PKR.

Mahathir said it was never his intention to give preference to “Azmin’s side”.

“I looked at PKR as PKR. Anwar was not an MP and could not hold office, so who was next? Next was Azmin. So I put in Azmin. Even then I didn’t give the highest post. I gave the highest post to Wan Azizah as my deputy. You see?

“I gave Azmin a place, but other positions I didn’t know whether they were supporters of Azmin or supporters of Anwar. Because at that time, the line was not very clear.”