PETALING JAYA: The spat between the Johor royals and Dr Mahathir Mohamad continued today with the prime minister reminding Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim that his post is not permanent.
This comes after Tunku Ismail, better known as TMJ, in a recent video, had said it was “better to change the prime minister”.
Speaking at a press conference in Beijing, China, today, Mahathir recalled how previously, a younger brother was appointed crown prince.
“So, the TMJ (the Johor crown prince) can be changed.
“As for the prime minister, only the rakyat can change that,” he said.
“He (Tunku Ismail) thinks he is a big person (‘orang besar’) but he is not; he is a small person.”
Mahathir added: “If he can vote, vote so that I can fall.”
In the video, Tunku Ismail is seen leaving a stadium in Larkin, Johor, after football club Johor Darul Ta’zim’s 0-1 defeat to Shandong Luneng in the AFC Champions League this week.
The vehicle ferrying him stops when a fan shouts “Change Mora”, in reference to the football club’s coach, Benjamin Mora.
Tunku Ismail, who is in the front passenger seat, then sticks his head out of the window and remarks: “Instead of changing Mora, it’s better to change the prime minister.”
The relationship between Putrajaya and the Johor royal family has grown tense recently.
This was especially so when the government withdrew from ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court this month, citing “confusion arising politically and within society”.
Mahathir, who announced the decision, said one person in particular had created confusion over the matter because the person wanted to be “free to beat up people and things like that”.
Tunku Ismail had earlier taken to social media to share his critical views on the Rome Statute.
Then, Johor Menteri Besar Osman Sapian tendered his resignation. Mahathir and the Johor palace later disagreed as to whether Sultan Ibrahim had absolute discretion in appointing the new menteri besar.
Tunku Ismail also claimed the state palace had requested that Osman be removed long before that.
Earlier this week, Sultan Ibrahim had suggested that the federal and Johor governments set aside any dispute or misunderstanding and meet and discuss matters with maturity for the good of all, especially the people.
In a post on his official Facebook account, the Ruler hoped the focus would be on the development and progress of Johor.
“The new state leadership should remain focused and enhance efforts to take care of the people’s welfare and interests,” he said.
Sultan Ibrahim said he hoped that all quarters would extend their fullest cooperation to enable the Johor administration to function smoothly.
“For that reason, if there is any dispute or misunderstanding, particularly involving the relationship between the state of Johor and the federal government, I suggest that we set aside the differences. Instead, it is best that we meet and discuss matters with maturity for the good of all, especially the people.”