Malaysia Post-PH Government, a documentation of political events from 21 to 24 Feb 2020

The movements of the political elite over the last few days have left Malaysians in confusion, not to mention the very real impact on economic and policy matters, and any semblance of reform initiatives. As of Monday 24 February 2020, RM43 billion has been wiped out from the KL Stock Exchange. Instead of a financial stimulus package due to be rolled out in the coming week, we are witness to a collapse of the short-lived Pakatan Harapan federal government, one year and seven and a half months since its ascension to power in May 2018 where dominant party BN was toppled for the first time in history.

This post is only to document the flurry of activities that took place between Friday 21 February and Monday 24 February 2020 in chronological order. A useful reference is this, this and this timeline. Analysis will come in due time.

As early as 14 February, a report by Zakiah Koya claimed that 138 MPs had already signed statutory declarations for Mahathir Mohamed to stay the full term in government. The report quotes a source saying that he was not involved in the obtaining of SD signatures. The numbers supposedly represented 18 from PAS, 26 from PKR, 13 from UMNO (out of its 39), and all 26 MPs from Bersatu.

Friday, 21 February

The highly anticipated Pakatan Harapan Presidential Council meeting was held at 8pm at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya, which Mahathir chairs. The meeting, the venue of which usually rotates between parties, was attended as usual by the 6 party representatives of each of the four political parties in PH. Based on media reports’ representation of parties’ positions, Anwar Ibrahim and those within his circle would have called for a fixed date for the handover of Prime Minister position to him; Azmin Ali and his side would have called for Mahathir to go the full term.

At the end of the long more than three-hour meeting, the Presidential Council decided to let Mahathir Mohamed set his own date for a power transition. They announced that Mahathir would hand over the reigns of power to Anwar after the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in November 2020, which Malaysia is due to chair. No fixed date was set. Anwar said that he would not allow party members to criticise the decision, while Syed Saddiq of Bersatu denied allegations that the party threatened to leave the coalition if Mahathir was pressured to step down.

Sunday, 23 February

This can be termed as the day of ‘private party meetings’ ending in the Sheraton dinner party.

Bersatu held a meeting at 9am on Sunday, chaired by Mahathir, at which the party decided to leave the PH coalition. It was at this meeting, which lasted almost 4 hours until just before 3pm, that others have speculated that the message was being circulated, that Anwar Ibrahim was rumoured to be meeting the Agong on Monday at 2.30pm (a prior engagement) for the purpose of informing him of a new government that he would be forming, after having secured the sufficient numbers of parliamentary seats. It is unclear whether this really took place, and if did, whether this was the main factor leading to Bersatu’s decision to leave the coalition. Mahathir was scheduled to meet the Agong, but did not go to the Istana Negara.

At 10am, a “private event” meeting was attended by ministers and MPs loyal to Azmin Ali’s faction in PKR.

At 12.30pm, Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Openg left for Kuala Lumpur. At 2pm, Sabah Chief Minister Shafie Apdal left for Kuala Lumpur.

At 2.51pm, after leaving from the Bersatu meeting, Mahathir left for his house in Mines where leaders from GPS, Warisan and UMNO gathered.

At 3pm (or 4pm – the media accounts differ), UMNO held a special Supreme Council meeting at PWTC. Annuar Musa said that the purpose of the meeting was to give members an update on the political developments in the country. UMNO President Zahid Hamidi informed his colleagues at this meeting that he would be with other political leaders heading to the Istana Negara.

At 5.40pm, about 20 vehicles consisting of luxurious sedans and MPVs appeared at the palace precinct as members of the media gathered near Gate 1 and Gate 3. At 6.15pm, four more VIP cars entered the palace, three of which were fitted with Sarawak registered number plates.

The political leaders who reportedly met with the Agong at the Istana Negara included Azmin Ali, Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yasin, Umno president Zahid Hamidi, PAS president Hadi Awang, Gabungan Parti Sarawak chairman Abang Johari Openg, and Warisan president Shafie Apdal.

PKR assemblyman Chong Fat Full stated to the Malay Mail in the morning (published at 6.30pm) that a new coalition would likely be announced on Sunday, saying that it had been discussed for a long time already, and the new coalition would be named Perikatan Nasional, including several leaders from DAP, Amanah, GPS, UMNO and PAS. In the same article, he is quoted to say that Azmin and allies have no intention of leaving PKR and if sacked, they would join existing political parties or form a new party. He also said that Mahathir would be meeting the Agong at 6pm that day and that a press conference would be held at 8.30pm that evening. But this press conference was never held, where Mahathir’s press officers confirmed at 6.58pm that he was instead resting at home and there would be no PC that evening.

At 6.45pm, a religious prayer event (majlis zikir) was due to start at Anwar Ibrahim’s residence in Segambut. PKR MPs sighted there were Saifuddin Nasution, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, Abdullah Sani, Fahmi Fadzil and Wong Chen. Penang Mufti Wan Salim delivered the sermon at the event.

At 7pm the same day, Azmin Ali met with Bersatu, UMNO and PAS members in the boardroom of the Sheraton Resort in Petaling Jaya, where leaders were sighted by the media from as early on as 1.30pm. Present at Sheraton included Umno’s Tengku Adnan Mansor, Annuar Musa, Zahid Hamidi, Hishamuddin Hussein, Syed Saddiq, Zahid Mat Arip, and Ismail Sabri Yaakob, PAS’ Hadi Awang, Takiyuddin Hassan, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man and Nik Mohamad Zawawi Salleh, Bersatu’s Mustapa Mohamed, Muhyiddin Yasin, Marzuki Yahya, Redzuan Yusof (Melaka Bersatu Chief) and Ahmad Faizal Azumu (Perak MB), MCA’s Wee Ka Siong, Wee Jeck Seng, Chong Sin Woon, and Nicole Wong, MIC’s Vigneswaran, and Azmin Ali with his allies including Zuraida Kamaruddin. Maria Chin Abdullah was also present in Sheraton but later defended herself, saying that she wanted to state her position of disagreeing with the formation of a backdoor government.

Here is where it gets muddled, because by this time several news portals were reporting on the numbers of MPs that the supposed new grand coalition would have. NST reported that the number of seats backing Mahathir as Prime Minister was 130, reached through a collective agreement involving five political parties including Bersatu, UMNO, PKR splinter faction, PAS and Amanah. Malay Mail reported the number as 131. Later at 9.54pm, an UMNO source was reported by the NST as saying that “we have 139” parliamentary seats, who also said that the Agong advised them to refer to the previous Perak case (in which a constitutional crisis led to a change in government in 2009).

At 8.05pm, the Agong had reportedly left the Palace.

At 10pm, Anwar Ibrahim confirmed that several Bersatu and PKR members had defected, via Facebook livestream. At the prayer event held at his residence, he confirmed that there were attempts by several quarters to topple the Pakatan Harapan government, calling it a betrayal by Bersatu and several members of PKR. At 10.23pm, it was reported that UMNO’s Annuar Musa said that it was “very likely” that the new coalition would be formed, and would be announced by Mahathir. When asked if Pakatan Harapan was over, Annuar said “I think so”.

At 10.10pm, PKR leaders aligned to Anwar start arriving at his residence, including Tan Yee Kew and Fuziah Salleh.

At 11.15pm, Anwar’s political secretary Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal said that Anwar is in a meeting with DAP and Amanah party leaders.

A summary of the day’s events is that despite much speculation of the supposed new coalition government, no press conference was held at the end of the day. From what I understand from various sources, there was supposed to have been a press conference but because Mahathir eventually decided that he was unwilling to form a government with the top leadership of UMNO and PAS, this was a dead end. What I am trying to establish is whether or not, during the past several months of back and forth, Mahathir was indeed unaware that any new coalition government would have required UMNO and PAS MPs, given the minimum of 112 parliamentary seats needed to form government.

Monday, 24 February

Malaysiakini’s live reporting was excellent, here.

On Monday morning, sometime between 8.19am and 10am, Wan Azizah, Anwar Ibrahim and Lim Guan Eng went to Perdana Putra to meet with Mahathir Mohamed, but the latter was not there.

Between 11am and 1pm, DAP and PKR convened meetings at their respective headquarters.

At 12.15pm, Lim Guan Eng was seen leaving Dr Mahathir’s residence in Seri Kembangan, Selangor.

At 2.03pm, Saifuddin Nasution, at a press conference in the PKR HQ, announced the sacking of Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali and Zuraida Kamaruddin from PKR. This was, he said, due to “open betrayal by several players who hold key roles”.

At 2.12pm, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announces that the party has pulled out of Pakatan Harapan (PH). Note that this announcement was based on the Bersatu meeting held the day before (Sunday, 23 February). Muhyiddin in his statement also said that all assemblymen of Bersatu signed SDs supporting and placing trust in Mahathir as the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

At 2.20pm, Prime Minister’s Office, through a press statement, announces that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad sent his letter of resignation as Prime Minister to Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah at 1pm today.

At 2.21pm, Mohamed Azmin and 10 other ex-PKR MPs announced they quit the party and the PH coalition to form an independent bloc in Parliament. The 11 include, apart from Azmin, Zuraida Kamaruddin, Saifuddin Abdullah, Mansor Othman, Kamaruddin Jaafar, Rashid Hasnon, Santhara Kumar, Baru Bian, Ali Biju, Willie Mongin and Jonathan Yasin. These consist of 4 ministers (Azmin, Zuraida, Saifuddin, Baru), while the latter four are from Sabah and Sarawak (Baru, Ali, Willie, Jonathan).

At 2.30pm, Anwar and Dr Wan Azizah arrives at Istana Negara for an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, which was already previously arranged for. They left at 3.15pm.

At 3.08pm, Dr Mahathir resigned as Bersatu chairman. Following this, it was reported at 4.27pm that several aides confirmed that Mahathir would also be resigning from Bersatu, and that other leaders including Maszlee Malik, Rina Harun, Syed Saddiq, Mukhriz Mahathir and Radzi Jidin and Mahathir’s media advisor Kadir Jasin would be leaving Bersatu. However, as at the end of Monday 24 February, no official announcement was made as to Mahathir (or his other colleagues as listed above) leaving Bersatu.

A press conference by civil society groups led by Bersih 2.0 and its allies was held at 4.30pm at Bersih’s premises, at which a statement was issued and a call for a dissolution of Parliament and fresh elections to be held to seek a fresh mandate from the rakyat.

At 4.44pm, in what was probably a most important revelation, Anwar Ibrahim said that Mahathir denied involvement in the suspected attempt to form a new government without PKR, DAP and Amanah. He said that Mahathir’s name was used by those within PKR and outside, as he did not want to work with those associated with the previous regime. This was reiterated by Lim Guan Eng in his statement, saying that Mahathir’s resignation was a sign of protest against the attempt to form a government with the opposition parties.

At 4.45pm, Dr Mahathir arrived at Istana Negara for an audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong. (Also at the same time, the Istana gave the media a pleasant treat of KFC). Mahathir left the palace at 6.18pm after a 90 minute meeting.

At 4.55pm, AG Tommy Thomas said he would not be issuing a statement.

At 6.46pm, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador urges the public not to make any speculation in relation to the country’s current political situation.

At 6.55pm, Malaysiakini reported live that all 42 DAP lawmakers had signed SDs stating their support for Mahathir as prime minister.

At 7.15pm, Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Mohd Zuki Ali in a statement announced that Yang di-Pertuan Agong has accepted Dr Mahathir’s resignation and consented to his appointment as interim Prime Minister.

At 7.25pm, Penang CM Chow Kon Yeow says that Penang is committed to PH and will continue to be administer the state government.

At 8.15pm, Bersatu convened an emergency meeting at its headquarters in Petaling Jaya. A group of 30 youths outside the HQ chant “Hidup Tun” as party leaders arrive for the meeting.

At 9.25pm, Chief Secretary to the Government, in a statement, announces that Yang di-Pertuan Agong has revoked the appointments of all Cabinet ministers, effective today.

At 9.30pm, BN and PAS top leaders met for dinner at PWTC. Amongst those meeting were Zahid Hamidi, Ismail Sabri, Najib Razak, Mahdzir Khalid, Tajuddin Abdul Rahman and Azeez Abdul Rahim.

At 9.40pm, Azmin Ali’s political secretary Hilman Idham was seen entering the Bersatu headquarters. Others there are Muhyiddin Yassin, Redzuan Yusof, Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, Rina Harun, Marzuki Yahya, Maszlee Malik, Rais Yatim, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Rafiq Naizamohideen, Mukhriz Mahathir, Hilman Idham, Mustapa Mohamed, Azizah Mohd Dun, and Shahbudin Yahaya.

At 11.25pm, Bersatu rejected Mahathir’s resignation as Chair of the party.

A summary of the day’s events is that: Mahathir quit as Prime Minister, and due to Azmin and co’s departure from PKR (11 MPs), plus Bersatu leaving from PH (26), this led to the collapse of the PH government (101), without the 112 required to form government. Mahathir is appointed as interim Prime Minister by the Agong, which is unprecedented in Malaysian history. The term “interim” does not exist in the Constitution, and the only precedence we have is that of a caretaker government, which has taken place only after Parliament dissolution in view of an upcoming general election. This is a matter for the constitutional lawyers to take up. AG on Tuesday 25 February has said that the interim Prime Minister has the prerogative to appoint any Cabinet ministers at his discretion, and that there is no time limit set on the interim PM’s position. That said, Parliament will be sitting within 14 days, on 9 March.

Tuesday, 25 February

But first, a note on states. Thanks again to Malaysiakini for the excellent work in compiling the numbers of state assemblypersons, here.

In short, the three states in which there can possibly be a change in government if UMNO, PAS and Bersatu were to team up against the other parties are in Perak, Malacca and Kedah. There is a possibility of a hung state assembly in Johor if UMNO, PAS and Bersatu are in coalition, against the PH partners DAP, PKR and Amanah. Negeri Sembilan and Selangor would not experience any change in government at all if all state assemblypersons in PKR remain with no defections. And the two states in which there would be no change in government at all even if there are defections from PKR are in Penang and Sabah.

As at 10.25am, the Kedah state government said that it was business as usual despite the technical fall of state government. MB Mukhriz is due to hold an exco meeting today.  

Also, at 11.20am, Johor UMNO announced that it is confident about forming a new state government together with Bersatu, thanks to a defection from PKR, as stated by Johor UMNO Chief Hasni Mohammad.

As at 12.15pm on Tuesday, Selangor MB Amirudin Shari has announced that the Selangor state government is stable and has met with the Selangor Sultan.

The Istana has also announced that it will be meeting with all 222 MPs individually, starting from 2.30pm Tuesday 25 February and will last till the following day (90 MPs will be interviewed on Tuesday and the remaining over the next day). It is understood that the Agong will be interviewing them individually for a maximum of 2 minutes each on the Prime Minister that they each support. This is unprecedented.

A group of anonymous civil society individuals are organizing a rally at 8.30pm tonight at Dataran Merdeka to protest against the potential backdoor government formation, while a score of other CSOs including ABIM and Iman Research have condemned the actions of those attempting the same. Police have stated they will be on standby for any eventuality.

In the afternoon, different individuals were sighted visiting the Istana including Hishamuddin Hussein, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Nancy Shukri, Fadillah Yusof and Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

These are the latest political developments as at 4pm on Tuesday 25 February.

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