WITH Bersatu threatening to pull out from Pakatan Harapan, the situation looked pretty bad at the presidential council meeting at the Perdana Leadership Foundation last Friday night.
And with three sets of opinions on whether Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad should set the date to step down or stay a full term, things couldn’t get any worse.
But Dr Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim stepped in to break the deadlock and bring temporary closure to the heated discussion, said three sources who attended the meeting.
“Can you leave it to me to decide on when to resign?” Dr Mahathir asked the PKR, DAP and Amanah leaders gathered to discuss the issue.
Anwar was the first to back up the PH and Bersatu chairman.
“I have full confidence in Dr Mahathir as prime minister and will go along with him on this issue,” said the 72-year-old.
According to the sources, Anwar even promised to take “sterner” action against the PKR members who question Dr Mahathir’s position as prime minister.
“I apologise for being too soft in the past. In one of our party meetings, we have even discussed one or two MPs who have being doing this in public,” said the PKR president.
According to the sources, Anwar was responding to Bersatu youth chief Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s remarks that none of his party leaders had ever questioned the fact that Anwar would be the next prime minister as opposed to some PKR leaders.
During the discussion, Bersatu leaders Muhyiddin Yassin, Syed Saddiq and Dr Radzi Jidin and Amanah’s Dr Hatta Ramli had said that it was unfair for Dr Mahathir to have to face attacks from within the coalition and answer questions about the power transition date all the time.
They said it was important that Dr Mahathir be allowed to finish the work to rehabilitate the economy which had been started.
Dr Mahathir said although he had initially promised to resign after two years, he had underestimated the amount of work that needed to be done.
At this point, the sources said Amanah’s Khalid Samad had piped in with the recommendation that maybe it was time for Anwar to join the cabinet.
“Anwar can be the finance minister, education minister or even the deputy prime minister. It would be good if we can announce Anwar joining the cabinet before the second anniversary (on May 9).
“Anwar coming in now would be good as it will ensure policy continuity,” said the Federal Territories minister.
A similar suggestion was made at the last presidential council meeting on November 23. The idea, however, was not taken up.
According to the sources, PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali was among the first to suggest that Dr Mahathir stay on for the full term.
The Bersatu leaders at the meeting, meanwhile, asked only that Dr Mahathir be allowed to decide when to call it a day.
Contrary to a news portal’s account of the meeting, Bersatu did not threaten to leave PH during the deadlock, one of the sources said.
“Bersatu secretary-general Marzuki Yahya only said that Bersatu would decide on its own if the council could not reach a consensus.
“It was also wrongly reported that Muhyiddin backed calls for a transition date against his own party chairman. He merely asked for Dr Mahathir to be given the opportunity to decide himself,” said the source.
Although the meeting kicked off on a heated note, the tension soon eased when Anwar backed Dr Mahathir’s appeal for trust.
It looks like the fire has been put out – for now, at least.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT