PETALING JAYA: Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi asked for a senior Cabinet post during a late-night meeting of political leaders with Dr Mahathir Mohamad last Sunday, according to an aide.
In a lengthy posting on Facebook, Mahathir’s deputy press secretary, Abdul Muhaimin Mohd Muhayeddin, recounted details of the meeting, one of several events that lay at the heart of a week-long crisis which culminated in a change of federal government.
Muhaimin said Mahathir had been pressed almost to tears at a meeting of the PPBM supreme council on Sunday evening, over whether to accept Umno and PAS leaders into a possible new coalition government.
“Tun then went home,” Muhaimin said. However, several political leaders came to call on him at home for more discussions about “the next plan”.
His visitors were PAS president Hadi Awang, the then-deputy president of PKR, Mohd Azmin Ali, Fadillah Yusuf of Sarawak’s GPS, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, GPS leader Abang Johari Openg and PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin.
“It was at this time that Zahid set out several conditions, among them the provision of senior Cabinet positions, and acceptance of Umno as a whole. He wanted an immediate decision,” Muhaimin said.
He said they wanted a quick decision because of the court cases involving former prime minister Najib Razak and Zahid himself.
“Tun thought it was foolish, as nothing has happened and yet threats were being being issued,” Muhaimin wrote.
He said the PPBM leaders had discussed proposals about a new coalition during the leadership meeting earlier.
Muhaimin said Mahathir had rejected the idea of working with Umno en-bloc, although he was open to welcoming a handful of its MPs. Several PPBM leadership members backed Mahathir on his stance, including Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, Maszlee Malik, A Kadir Jasin, Mukhriz Mahathir and Akhramsyah Muammar Ubaidah Sanusi.
He said Mahathir had fought hard to hold back his tears, asking those who were at the meeting to “not force him to go against his principles.”
No decision was made at the meeting, and Mahathir was given time to think it over, Muhaimin said.
Azmin Ali, who was then still PKR deputy president, said he hoped that Mahathir, who was PPBM chairman, would change his mind about working with the members of the then opposition.
Muhaimin revealed that on Monday morning, when Mahathir resigned as prime minister, Pakatan Harapan leaders such as PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim and Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Amanah’s Mohamad Sabu and DAP’s Lim Guan Eng had met Mahathir individually.
The PH leaders, Muhaimin said, had initially thought that Mahathir was behind a gathering at a hotel on Sunday night which included Azmin’s faction, PPBM and the opposition. The gathering has since been dubbed the “Sheraton Move”.
“It was then that they realised that Tun M was sincere and a man of principle and therefore could lead a coalition comprising all political parties. But by then it was too late and Tun M had resigned.”
Mahathir had pushed for a unity government to resolve the political quagmire, sparked by his resignation and PPBM’s decision to pull out from the ruling coalition which led to the collapse of the PH government.
Muhaimin said that prior to the audience between the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and leaders of the political parties, PH had met with Mahathir and he agreed to again become the prime minister but with conditions attached.
PPBM, he said, by then had already nominated Muhyiddin as prime minister and agreed to work with Umno and PAS en-bloc, which Mahathir was against.
Muhaimin said that the saddest thing about the entire episode was that Mahathir was betrayed by many of those he considered to be close allies, including several MPs.
“This is why he said he was betrayed, the biggest betrayal being by Muhyiddin.”
Muhyiddin was this morning appointed as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister at the head of a coalition which has come to be known in the media as “Perikatan Nasional”.