Malaysia’s caretaker PM Muhyiddin meets the king

Sources said that Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin could offer the former health minister his old post amid the growing coronavirus outbreak. PHOTO: EPA-EFE. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19, 2021, ST. Caretaker prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin arrived at the national palace on Thursday (Aug 19) at around 3pm, as Malaysia’s King is set to meet 114 Members of Parliament to verify their support for candidate Ismail Sabri Yaakob as the country’s next leader, The Straits Times reported.

Datuk Seri Ismail who was at the palace at around 1pm left about two hours later without speaking to the media.

Parti Islam SeMalaysia’s (PAS) delegation comprising 18 MPs and former senior minister Azmin Ali, who is a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) council member, have also arrived at the palace.

Earlier, MPs from Umno and Bersatu arrived at the palace in Kuala Lumpur, as well as Barisan Nasional lawmakers who were there earlier in the morning.

Bersatu MPs left the palace about an hour later at around 2.20pm, while Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also left after arriving separately from the Umno delegation.

Confirming that 114 MPs had been invited to the palace to affirm their choice of Mr Ismail as PM, Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan told reporters that each MP had about one to two minutes with the King.

He said MPs were asked to state their name and constituency, and to reaffirm that their support for Mr Ismail was made “voluntarily without duress”.

Earlier he told reporters that the purpose of the meeting was to make sure that “we signed the (statutory declarations) voluntarily and that we were not under pressure.”

Mr Ismail was deputy premier in the Muhyiddin administration which resigned on Monday.

A total of 17 lawmakers from Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), an alliance of state-based parties running the Sarawak government, together with independent Lubok Antu MP Jugah Muyang, had their audience with the King virtually, GPS parliamentary whip Fadillah Yusof told reporters in Kuching, Sarawak. They were among the first group of MPs to have their session at around 10am.

The MPs met Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah one by one to confirm the contents of their statutory declaration, and that it was signed willingly, Datuk Seri Fadillah was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini news website.

However, he did not reveal who the coalition is backing, saying that this would be up to the King to reveal.

Earlier, chief secretary to the government Mohd Zuki Ali and Attorney-General Idrus Harun were seen arriving at the palace.

Sultan Abdullah is meeting the MPs in five groups from 10am to 5pm, according to a schedule seen by The Straits Times.

Meanwhile, the opposition said it has not received an invite for an audience with the King.

The meetings come a day after Wednesday’s deadline for MPs to state who they choose to lead the country.

All parties who were in Perikatan Nasional have backed Mr Ismail, except veteran Umno MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who was a rival candidate for the premiership until Umno decided to go with its vice-president.

The 114 votes obtained by Mr Ismail means that rival Anwar Ibrahim, who leads the Pakatan Harapan opposition coalition and is Parti Keadilan Rakyat president, has failed to obtain enough support to become the next PM.

The King decreed on Wednesday that the MP chosen to succeed caretaker PM Muhyiddin Yassin would still need to pass a confidence vote in Parliament to affirm his legitimacy, while the Conference of Rulers is also expected to hold a special meeting on Friday to discuss the matter.

In February last year, Sultan Abdullah picked Tan Sri Muhyiddin, after a week-long political impasse following then PM Mahathir Mohamad’s shock resignation.

The decision was disputed by Tun Dr Mahathir who had himself tried to form a unity government, after refusing to go along with plans by Bersatu to leave PH and work with Umno.

The Muhyiddin government was plagued by accusations that it was a “back-door government”.

Following the loss of his majority with the withdrawal of 15 Umno MPs from Perikatan Nasional earlier this month, Mr Muhyiddin promised to push for a motion of confidence in the next parliamentary session and offered a raft of reforms to the opposition last week in a bid to secure enough votes.

But Mr Muhyiddin was forced to resign on Monday after the opposition rejected his reform deal to gain bipartisan support.

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