The Perikatan Nasional government is using both threats and baits to induce opposition lawmakers to switch sides, said Saifuddin Nasution Ismail following the sudden resignation of Xavier Jayakumar from PKR today.
The PKR secretary-general said the minority government was employing the police, Inland Revenue Board and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to intimidate opposition MPs into defecting.
“Dr Xavier (Jayakumar) recently met with the Keadilan leadership to inform them that the MACC targeting him after detaining his political secretary, private secretary and several others in an investigation.
“Subsequently, Dr Xavier was also contacted by a senior minister and warned that he should support Perikatan Nasional or face serious consequences,” he said in a statement
Saifuddin first made the claim that Putrajaya was using threats and offering rewards to draw opposition lawmakers to leave the Pakatan Harapan last month.
He said issues being brought up to coerce MPs to quit the party include matters involving income tax, police and corruption probes.
However, on March 6 the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) denied allegations that it has been used as a “political weapon” in carrying out its actions.
This came following reports that the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Presidential Council had strongly condemned the misuse of government agencies as a political weapon to gain support from opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.
In a statement today, the MACC stressed it is an independent investigation agency and non–partisan.
The police and the Inland revenue Board also issued similar statements.
Inspector-General of Police Abdul Hamid Bador denied the government was wielding the force as a political weapon against opposition leaders.
“I emphasise that PDRM has never been pressured to do this and I will not allow this force to be used for the purpose of going against the principles of democracy,” he said.
The IRB also denied that its actions were politically motivated.
The IRB said its audits and investigations into individuals, including politicians, were solely to ensure compliance with tax laws.
Saifuddin urged his PKR colleagues to stand firm against pressure from the authorities.
Of Xavier’s decision to switch sides, he said: “As someone who has known Xavier for a long time, his actions and reasons have raised many questions. Yet what distinguishes genuine reformers from others is that they stand the test of time.
“PKR and Pakatan Harapan will stay on course by preparing for the 15th general election while working to reclaim the mandate of the people in accordance with the law and constitution.”
Xavier today announced his resignation from PKR to become an independent MP who will now support Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
He said he was “extremely frustrated” over events that have unfolded in the past year.
He cited a need to ensure that the government remains stable and to avoid an election.
“While there are parties discussing the possibility of an election, this is not necessary or viable at this point in time,” he said.
The priority now, he added, was to support the government’s effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, create jobs and secure funds to rebuild the economy.
The former water, land and natural resources minister said it would take at least 18 months to complete the vaccination programme and more than two years for the economy to fully recover.
“This needs bipartisan support, to make sure the efforts of the government are fulfilled.
“People want stability and to restart our ailing economic sectors. Towards this, we need to work together, not against one another,” he added.
He also said he is confident of fulfilling the election promises for the people at his constituency in his capacity as an independent MP.
Xavier has been part of PKR since 1998, when the party was called Parti Keadilan Nasional.
He quickly rose up the ranks and was elected as party vice-president during the PKR leadership election as part of former PKR deputy president Azmin Ali’s team.
Azmin and much of his supporters left PKR in February 2020.
Xavier was in the news last month after it was revealed that his “family friend” MA Thinagaran was arrested by the MACC.
Thinagaran was allegedly investigated over government projects in Perak initiated during the Pakatan Harapan administration.
Xavier is the third lawmaker to leave PKR in recent weeks after Julau MP Larry Sng and Tebrau MP Steven Chong, who left to back Muhyiddin as independent lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Setiawangsa MP Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad wasted no time nor attempted to hide his scorn for his fellow lawmakers who quit Pakatan Harapan and switched their support to Muhyiddin instead.
Labelling them “trash”, the PKR chief organising secretary told party defectors to stop trying to create more trouble for the party and just leave quickly.
“When you are already trash, quickly leave the party. Don’t cause any more confusion,” he said on Facebook.
Nazmi did not name anyone, but his post was made just minutes after Xavier announced his resignation from PKR.
Rumours have been circulating since last month that PN is making overtures to Opposition lawmakers in an attempt to win its parliamentary majority after three Umno MPs openly dropped support for Muhyiddin.
Machang MP Datuk Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub and Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz both announced their withdrawal of support in January, while Gua Musang MP Tan Sri Razaleigh Hamzah made his sentiment known in December 2020.
The number of supporters who are pro-Muhyiddin is currently unclear as Parliament has yet to convene, despite a decree by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong saying it can do so during the current nationwide state of Emergency called to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.
Senior Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, another former PKR leader, hinted on Twitter today that Xavier may not be the last lawmaker to switch allegiances.
Chin rubbished the rumour, saying that it was intentionally made up by “idiots” and declared that she was against party-hopping.
In a move to put an end to party hopping within Pakatan Harapan, the coalition has stated that Members of Parliament or assemblymen attempting to hop between component parties of Pakatan Harapan will now be regarded by the coalition as PH-friendly independents.
This follows the PH presidential council’s directive to component parties to reject the membership of anyone leaving another party in the coalition.
“If they insist on leaving their parties, then they will become independent representatives but supporters of PH,” Amanah communications director Khalid Samad said.
Meanwhile, former prime minister Najib Razak resorted to a taunting post on his Facebook in an immediate reaction to Xavier’s resignation.
“YB (Xavier) was linked to the MACC case where his good friend was arrested for a case, in which RM1.2 million in cash was seized, RM77 million in bank accounts were frozen and several luxury cars confiscated.
“This is last month’s news, maybe his resignation has nothing to do with it,” Najib said.