Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar did not only drew support from the public but also faced much backlash from the PH and PKR coalition over her negative comments towards Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s present governance in her controversial interview with Singapore’s Strait Times.
She described last year’s political development, including the lack of a clear-cut narrative to strengthen the middle ground and the acceptance of former Umno MPs into Pakatan Harapan (PH) as being “so turbulent and tumultuous”.
“I’ve learned so much, but I think my heart’s been broken as well, somewhat,” said Nurul Izzah, who recounted Mahathir’s first stint in power almost two decades ago when he sent her father, Anwar Ibrahim, the then-deputy-prime-minister, to prison in 1998 for sodomy and corruption charges.
Straits Times executive editor Sumiko Tan had asked Nurul Izzah what was the cause of her ‘broken heart’.
“I mean having to work with a former dictator who wreaked so much damage, not just on our lives, but the system. It was not easy,” she replied, although Anwar himself had openly made peace with Dr Mahathir through a historic handshake three years ago, and is once again positioned as his successor.
On Monday (25 March), Dr Mahathir’s political secretary Abu Bakar Yahya criticised Nurul Izzah as “immature, irrational and emotional” for making the comments, especially with Singapore media.
“What is being done by the prime minister and the government currently should not be seen in a personal context by Nurul Izzah, but must be seen as a whole in the interest of the people and nation,” Mr Abu Bakar said in a statement as reported by Bernama.
“As a Member of Parliament and former PKR vice-president, I am certain that Nurul Izzah does not forget that the position of Dr Mahathir as the prime minister is a unanimous decision of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) leadership council, while all decisions involving the government administration is decided jointly by the Cabinet ministers.”
“I also believe that Nurul Izzah understands and acknowledges that without YAB Tun, it was impossible for PH to win in the 14th general election and form the government that exists today,” he added.
Other critics of Nurul’s statements include PKR deputy president and Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali, PPBM Supreme Council member Tariq Ismail, PPBM Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, former PPBM member Khairuddin Abu Hassan, Universiti Utara Malaysia analyst Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Awang Pawi, as well as former PKR vice president and Padang Serai MP, N. Surendran, who chided Nurul through his tweet with a link to the Malaysiakini’s article.
Notwithstanding, Nurul also received support for the interview by some segments within PH and PKR, such as PKR’s Wong Chen who cited that the reform process is indeed “frustrating, presumably because of the lack of political will to reform”.
The following day (26 March), Nurul’s father, Dato’ Seri Anwar spoke to reporters at the Parliament lobby in Kuala Lumpur with a simple comment that “it’s her view” and that the new government should “focus on the economy and the people” instead.
Last week on Friday (22 March), Nurul announced her resignation from the parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, citing a loss of faith in PH over the coalition’s failure to replace Datuk Seri Ronald Kiandee as the chairman. On 15 March, Nurul tweeted that the PAC chairman must be an Opposition lawmaker as pledged by PH in its election manifesto.
This is not news considering Nurul’s announcement in December last year that she would resign from all PKR posts in order to remain as a parliamentary backbencher committed to the supremacy of the reform agenda.
She had also stated during the interview with the Singapore daily that she “always believe in a lot of goodness in people, but of course, it is important for people to prove themselves”.
In response to Nurul Izzah’s interview, Dr Mahathir stated that the disappointment cuts both ways and did not elaborate further on the topic.
“Tak pa la, dia banyak orang kecewa. Saya pun kecewa dengan dia orang. (Never mind, many people are disappointed. I am also disappointed with them),” Dr Mahathir said after delivering a special mandate to some 500 civil servants at Dewan Seri Negeri on Monday (25 March).
Earlier in Dr Mahathir’s speech, he urged civil servants to knock off any foul practice of corruption in their work and organisation following the launch of the National Anti-Corruption Plan (NACP) in January.
“History has shown how grand Muslim empires collapsed and were destroyed, which did not start with Muslim enemies but from power abuse and corruption. When corruption and power abuse is widespread, the strength of the empire weakens and they were eventually brought down and conquered by the enemy,” he said.
The NACP addresses six key priority areas, namely political governance, public sector administration, public procurement, legal and judicial, law enforcement and corporate governance.
During the ceremony, Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir led about 500 civil servants in an anti-corruption pledge before signing the integrity and anti-corruption pledge, witnessed by Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief commissioner Datuk Seri Mohd Shukri Abdull.
Also present was Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption Centre (GIACC) director-general Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed.
On the same day, PH denied issuing a statement about backing up Dr Mahathir’s leadership. The coalition chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah confirmed this on Twitter after local daily The Star published an article on the purported statement.
The unvalidated statement published by The Star, Malay news daily Sinar Harian and The Straits Times on their websites was later retracted.