PETALING JAYA: A PPBM supreme council member has insisted that any move to scale down or transfer government staff assigned to former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad would be hitting “below the belt”.
Rais Hussin, who heads the party’s policy and strategy bureau, said Malaysia should emulate advanced democracies like the US where former presidents are known to be treated appropriately no matter what political inclination they had.
“In the US, it is normal to have former presidents who are from an opposing party.
“The government of the day always accords them with the same standard protocols,” he said.
“What is happening in Malaysia now shows that the current administration is practising low-class democracy,” he told FMT.
Yesterday, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun had clarified that the official bodyguard service provided by the Special Action Unit (UTK) to Mahathir had not been withdrawn but only reduced in number for now.
He said the situation could change depending on the perceived threat.
“If we think there are serious threats towards him, we will beef up security,” he said.
Last year, Putrajaya had ended the contract of Mahathir’s cook and office assistant. His police outriders were also withdrawn after his privileges were revoked following his attendance at anti-government events.
Rais said Mahathir, 92, had never reduced or removed privileges due to former prime ministers who had served before him, during his 22 years in power till 2003.
“It is not a crime to have a political view different from the current administration,” he said.
“Tunku Abdul Rahman and Hussein Onn too had differing views with the prime minister at that time, but none of their privileges were withdrawn or scaled down,” he claimed.
Rais alleged that the move to cut services to Mahathir, who is chairman of PPBM and Pakatan Harapan (PH), was to create difficulties for him as he now held dissenting political views.
“This is hitting way below the belt. It is not the way to show respect to a statesman who has done much to put Malaysia on the global map,” he said.
PH chief secretary Saifuddin Abdullah said all the services should have been retained in full, stressing that “a former PM is a former PM”.
“Where he stands in today’s politics is another story altogether,” he said.
Saifuddin also dismissed Fuzi’s assertion that the security would be strengthened if there is a threat to Mahathir, saying the number of policemen should not have been cut in the first place.
In a Facebook post on Nov 1, Mahathir had claimed that the police had withdrawn the UTK officers assigned as his personal bodyguards.
The Prime Minister’s Department responded by denying that the government had withdrawn any of the services.
It said Mahathir’s office had been provided with civil servants for his office at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya and his residence at Mines Resort City, Selangor, in line with the Members of Parliament (Remuneration) Act 1980.
It said a total of 21 civil servants were assigned to Mahathir, the cost for which was borne by the government.