Mon, May 14, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Rifts emerge in Malaysia

CABINET SEATS:Disputes within the four-party coalition were reported over the formation of a new government after only three names were announced on Saturday


Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng attends a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday.

Photo: AFP

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and jailed former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim yesterday tried to ease a rift within the ruling alliance after differences erupted between their supporters over Cabinet positions.

The four-party alliance scored a historic victory in Wednesday’s general election over the long-ruling Barisan Nasional government, but the emergence of a rift so soon is raising questions about the unity of what was always an unlikely coalition.

In a statement from his hospital bed, Anwar said he had told members of his People’s Justice Party (PKR) to ensure that Mahathir’s government “remains strong and stable.”

However, he also said that, in a conversation with Mahathir, he had raised PKR’s demand for “more inclusive negotiation,” a reference to the formation of the Cabinet.

Mahathir said in a telecast on state TV that “at the beginning, we shouldn’t look at proportion” in the Cabinet.

“It will be made up when we make up the rest of the Cabinet,” he said. “Surely there will be some conflict in need and wants of each party. This will be determined by the prime minister.”

Mahathir is the alliance leader and Anwar’s PKR has the majority of seats in parliament won by the group. The volatile relationship between the two, from friends to foes to allies, has dominated Malaysia’s political landscape for over three decades and is central to the future of the alliance.

Mahathir announced just three ministers on Saturday, to join himself and Anwar’s wife, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, in the Cabinet.

He was to announce 10, and sources within the alliance said there was no agreement on the others. The sources declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Wan Azizah did not attend the news conference to announce the new ministers because of the disagreements, one source said.

Mahathir then visited Anwar in the hospital where he is recovering from a shoulder operation and the atmosphere was frosty, another source who was present said.

The source said Mahathir and Anwar were scheduled to meet again on Sunday to patch up differences over the Cabinet positons.

“Even the three appointed [is not final] because the decision was made without our participation,” Rafizi Ramli, a senior member of PKR, was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini Web site.

“He [Mahathir] bulldozed it. He just unilaterally announced,” Rafizi said.

PKR won 48 seats out of the 113 won by the alliance in the election on Wednesday. Among other members of the coalition, the Democratic Action Party (DAP) won 42, Mahathir’s Bersatu party won 12 and the Amanah party of new Minister of Defense Mohamad Sabu won 11.

“The transition of power in Malaysia will be like water finding a new level, these things won’t be resolved quickly,” said Karim Raslan, founder of the KRA Group, a public affairs consulting firm for Southeast Asia. “It will be a race against time as the two grand old men of Malaysian politics — Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim — struggle to assert themselves.”

One of the appointments announced on Saturday was that of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (林冠英), a former banker and chartered accountant, to be minister of finance.

Lim, 58, is long-time political opponent of Mahathir, whom the prime minister jailed twice during his previous administration.

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