Several Perikatan Nasional (PN) MPs have been approached by a businessman claiming an investment interest in their constituencies, raising suspicions of an attempt to rope them into talks on a switch in support in the Dewan Rakyat, MalaysiaNow has learnt.
It is understood that MPs in Selangor, Kedah and Terengganu have received similar requests for meetings with the businessman who claims to possess a Dato title, informing them of "business plans" for their constituencies that could boost the local economy in those areas.
A source in Bersatu told MalaysiaNow that an MP who attended one such meeting was offered a high position in a federal agency, but declined to reveal further details.
"All I can say is, it only confirms our suspicions that the meetings were a fake precursor to discuss support for Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in the Dewan Rakyat," the source added.
MalaysiaNow is withholding the name of the businessman pending confirmation of his identity and background.
The messages were sent around the same day to the MPs, with minor tweaks to suit the individual constituencies.
All of the constituencies are semi-rural, with a proposed theme of promoting eco-tourism by setting up "boutique hotels" and developing local agriculture.
"We hope you will make time to discuss my proposals as they would need support from the local authorities, especially from your parliamentary office," said one of the messages.
At a press conference convened by PN leaders today, Kubang Pasu MP Ku Abd Rahman Ku Ismail said he was among those approached by the individual, and that he had since blocked the caller's number.
PN secretary-general Hamzah Zainudin meanwhile said the meeting turned out to be about getting the MPs to switch their allegiance.
"When they met, it was not about building a hotel. (The businessman said), 'Please support Anwar, support PMX'," Hamzah said, adding that many were also offered positions at government-linked companies as well as Cabinet posts, in addition to offers to settle their personal debts.
This follows a surprise move by two MPs from Bersatu to declare their support for Anwar while remaining part of the opposition bloc – a move likely to avoid violating the anti-hopping law passed under the previous government.
Anwar's government currently faces the largest opposition bloc yet dominated by Malays, reflecting the community's lack of support for Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Umno, the latter of which received an electoral thrashing at the hands of its traditional vote bank.
It is understood that PH has been on a charm offensive to woo support while circling the anti-hopping law.
The anti-hopping law, unanimously passed last year, prevents elected representatives from switching parties, but has no power to dictate how they vote on motions and bills in the Dewan Rakyat – a right protected under the constitution.
Anwar has repeatedly insisted that he holds a majority of more than two-thirds, in an apparent push to ward off threats to his coalition government.
In September, however, Muda president Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman announced his withdrawal of support for the government as a form of protest over a series of U-turns on reforms promised by Anwar.
Syed Saddiq later claimed that the government was punishing him by stopping development funds for his Muar constituency.
Last month, two Bersatu MPs – Labuan's Suhaili Abdul Rahman and Kuala Kangsar's Iskandar Dzulkarnain Abdul Khalid – announced that they would support the prime minister, in a move welcomed by Anwar.
"The announcement was critical for Anwar because by showing he has a two-thirds majority, he is hoping to silence all talk of a change in government due to a shift of allegiance by some Umno members," said a former aide to a current minister from PKR.
The same source said that the current focus was for Anwar to show his support from MPs representing Malay constituencies.
"He could get MPs to 'cross over' to PH or BN (Barisan Nasional), but that would mean by-elections in these constituencies. That is something the government wants to avoid as Malay voters are still seen as solidly behind PN," it said.
There have been suggestions that the move by the two Bersatu MPs was due to threats of corruption charges.
Anwar however denied the claim, saying yesterday that he had never met the duo.
"They had not held talks with me or any minister," he added.