KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s longest-serving lawmaker and senior Umno MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah asked Parliament last month to debate a motion of no-confidence in Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin over alleged “political bribery”.
This is despite the fact that his party supports the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition. .
The revelation comes amid intense scrutiny over whether Tan Sri Muhyiddin still commands majority support in the 222-strong lower house of Parliament after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed otherwise in an audience with the King on Tuesday (Oct 13).
Tan Sri Razaleigh was also summoned to the palace by Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah the same day.
The palace later said that Datuk Seri Anwar, who leads Parti Keadlian Rakyat (PKR), did not provide a list of the names of the 120 or more MPs which he claims are backing him.
In a letter to Speaker Azhar Harun on Sep 25, Mr Razaleigh said that he had rejected Mr Muhyiddin’s offer to appoint him as adviser to state oil giant Petronas, a position usually reserved for former premiers.
The Gua Musang MP said this was because the Federal Constitution states that one can be “disqualified as an MP if he holds an office of profit”.
“This sub-section is meant to prevent MPs from supporting or voting for the government due to political bribes,” he said in the letter that was released to the media Wednesday.
Although Mr Razaleigh did not make explicit reference to other lawmakers, the Muhyiddin administration has been criticised for appointing about 90 per cent of the 113 MPs in the PN coalition to ministerial roles, or as heads of state agencies and government-linked companies (GLC).
However, the Constitution defines “office of profit” as positions in public services such as the armed forces, judiciary, legal services and police force.
“Political bribery is causing our constitutional democracy to face a serious challenge. Therefore, it is very important that the understanding of political bribes must be based on the constitutional purpose of viewing the holding of an ‘office of profit’ resulting in disqualification of membership is to defend and uphold the Constitution and integrity of the House of Commons,” Mr Razaleigh wrote.
Although Speaker Azhar rejected the request to prioritise the motion of no-confidence – submitted by former premier Mahathir Mohamad in May – ahead of government business, the revelation implies that Mr Muhyiddin’s already wafer-thin majority is now at the bare minimum of 112.
It follows Tuesday night’s declaration by Umno, PN’s largest member, that it was mulling over withdrawing support for Mr Muhyiddin unless “new conditions” are met.
Although the demands were not specified, Umno and Mr Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia have been at loggerheads for months over primacy in the ruling coalition.
Tensions boiled over most recently after Bersatu gained the chief ministership of Sabah following the Sep 26 state polls, with senior figures in Umno questioning the wisdom of their cooperation with Bersatu.
Mr Razaleigh, who is Umno’s advisory council chief, had also in July rejected the idea of continuing to support Mr Muhyiddin as prime minister after a fresh general election, which is expected within months.
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