Tense PPBM meeting over Johor exco line-up ends with solidarity for Dr M

Senior PPBM leaders are behind Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his recent tiff with the Johor palace over the state line-up.

PETALING JAYA: Top PPBM leaders have expressed solidarity with Dr Mahathir Mohamad amid lingering tension between the prime minister and the Johor royal household over the selection of the state cabinet.

FMT has learnt from reliable sources that the expression of support came at the end of a tense Supreme Council meeting last night, during which party leaders discussed the new Johor state line-up which was sworn-in yesterday in front of Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

The meeting, which a source describes as “very heated and tense”, was called at short notice on the back of concerns that the new line-up was never approved by PPBM.

They also demanded newly appointed Johor Menteri Besar Dr Sahruddin Jamal to explain why he ignored a decision “made at the very top” that there was no need for a reshuffle of the state line-up.

“But the MB went ahead with the reshuffle although he was informed of the Cabinet stand during his meeting with the prime minister prior to his swearing-in,” the source said.

FMT has also learnt that Sahruddin’s action was heavily criticised by Mahathir.

The source said many had during the meeting questioned the move to “kowtow to invisible hands” in the selection of the Johor exco line-up.

The new line-up includes three new members, while two others were removed, in addition to changes in portfolio titles.

It was formalised following a public spat between Mahathir and the Johor ruler over the extent of the palace’s jurisdiction in the state government.

Mahathir had in the past clashed with the Johor palace over his move to strip the rulers of their immunity under the law in 1993, during his first term in power.

This followed an assault incident involving a hockey coach and the then ruler, Sultan Iskandar Sultan Ismail. Following weeks of standoff, the amendment finally got royal consent, and a special court was established to try members of the royalty.

Mahathir recently expressed disappointment that the special court had never been utilised despite the 1993 amendments.

“Although we are a parliamentary democracy, some of the people who run the government are quite feudal in their way of thinking. They cannot say no,” he said in an interview recently.

At the meeting yesterday, PPBM leaders gave their full support to Mahathir’s recent remarks on the need for members of the royalty to abide by the rule of law.

“At the end of the meeting, they all gave their commitment to rally behind Mahathir,” the source added.

“They agreed that a constitutional monarch is subjected to the constitution. They do not have absolute powers,” he said, adding that only the winning party had the power to appoint the PM, the menteri besar and chief minister.

That view reflects Mahathir’s response to statements by the Johor crown prince warning the veteran leader against interfering in matters of appointing the menteri besar, after the post was left vacant by the resignation of Osman Sapian.

The tension was also compounded by the palace’s opposition to Malaysia’s ratification of the Rome Statute.

Mahathir recently announced the government was withdrawing from the statute, but not before firing a salvo at the opponents of the treaty, who included Johor’s Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.

The vocal crown prince had warned that the Rome Statute would allow foreign powers to undermine the country’s royal institution.

Mahathir said there was “one particular person who wants to be free to beat up people”.

“If he does that, I will send the police after him. I do not care who he is,” he said.