Malaysian King warns against divisiveness

Malaysian King warns against divisiveness

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's King has cautioned against excessive politicking, warning that the resulting divisions would only hurt the country and its people.

His remarks were made at an investiture ceremony at the Istana Negara yesterday to mark his official birthday, Bernama reported.

Although he did not elaborate on what brought on the warning, his remarks came amid rising political tensions, including within the ruling Umno party.

Prime Minister Najib Razak is currently fighting an attempt by former premier Mahathir Mohamad to push him out of office. The party is riven as the power struggle is increasingly being played out in the open, most recently at a public forum on Friday.

The King noted yesterday that no one gains from infighting. "As the old Malay proverb says, both the winner and loser gain nothing from a conflict (kalah jadi abu, menang jadi arang)."

"The vanquished will be reduced to ashes, and the victor to charcoal," he said at the event, which was attended by Datuk Seri Najib, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as well as other dignitaries and foreign envoys.

The King, Tuanku Abdul Halim, added that he hoped every one would give the Prime Minister and his government the space and opportunity to resolve whatever problems there are.

Mr Najib, who is increasingly under pressure to explain how state investment agency 1MDB came to be saddled with a huge debt, was to have taken part in the Nothing2Hide forum on Friday. He pulled out just before it began, citing police advice on concerns over public order.

Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, the Inspector-General of Police, told a press conference on Friday that it was he who issued the order to cancel the forum at the last minute, The Star reported.

The police had received information that two groups were planning to cause trouble at the event, he explained.

"No party influenced my decision. It is mine and mine alone," he said, dismissing notions that the Prime Minister influenced him to do so.

Mr Najib has been criticised for backing out of the forum, leaving Tun Dr Mahathir to continue his attacks on him at the venue. At one point the former premier was told by the police to stop his public address.

Mr Khalid said the police officer who interrupted Dr Mahathir had acted on his order. "When the event is cancelled, that means every activity is cancelled," he said.

Describing Mr Najib's decision not to attend the dialogue as an "embarrassment" and damaging, analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan told Malaysia Insider: "This is really not about facts, it doesn't matter what he says any more. Even if he tells the truth, in the end, it is all about perception."

Mr Wan Saiful, who is the head of the think-tank, Institute of Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), said Mr Najib should have turned up at the forum, faced Dr Mahathir and presented his case civilly.

"He could have won the debate, and stolen the thunder from Dr Mahathir if he had provided the answers to all our questions on 1MDB," he said.

While acknowledging that the pull-out created the impression that Mr Najib was running away from a fight, analyst Ibrahim Suffian told the Insider that he sees it as a protracted battle.

As such, Mr Najib needs to ensure he can live to fight another day. "I'm a bit sympathetic towards the Prime Minister - it's not that he is not willing to fight, but he will be trying to answer questions from a very sceptical public."


This article was first published on June 7, 2015.
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