KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s run-in with royalty may affect the opposition coalition’s chances of winning, according to a report in The Straits Times (ST).
The report quoted analysts as saying that while Dr Mahathir himself might not put much stock in royal relations, his colleagues in PH do.
It noted an irony: Dr Mahathir’s role was largely to bring in the Malay votes for the opposition, but as Malays generally think highly of royalty, there is some fear that it could affect voter sentiment.
On Oct 14, during the “Love Malaysia, end kleptocracy” rally in Petaling Jaya, Dr Mahathir, in repeating allegations of graft against Prime Minister Najib Razak, had called him the descendent of a “Bugis pirate”.
The remark sparked outrage from the Johor and Selangor palaces as well as the Bugis community, both in Malaysia and Indonesia, and he came in for a reprimand from Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Salahuddin. The Selangor royal family has Bugis roots.
The Selangor sultan told The Star in an interview last week that Dr Mahathir had an inferiority complex and that his “anger would burn the whole country”.
The ST quoted ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute senior fellow Wan Saiful Wan Jan as saying the views of the rulers were important.
“Tun Mahathir has a history of bad blood with the Malay Rulers. It is not surprising that his actions or comments can be used against him. The problem for him is, while the sultan can attack him openly, he cannot respond,” he added.
The former prime minister has maintained that his remarks were only against Najib and not the Bugis community.
Yesterday, Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said police would definitely take a statement from Dr Mahathir over his remarks that allegedly insulted the Bugis community.
Last week, Dr Mahathir and his wife voluntarily returned the awards conferred on them over the years by the Selangor palace.
The ST report said the act of returning the two awards sent a signal that the 92-year-old would not bend his knee to the royals in his quest to unseat Najib.
Pacific Research Center principal adviser Oh Ei Sun told the ST: “The royal rebuttal was unexpected, but Dr Mahathir is not apologising (for his ‘Bugis pirates’ comment), he is making a point about how he was on the receiving end of racial attacks, but not being allowed to retaliate.”
The report noted that police investigation could drag on up till the general election due by August, complicating things for the opposition.