One of the parties in the new coalition government of Malaysia has slammed The Straits Times for publishing “completely fabricated and false” claims that they believe is an attempt to “drive a wedge” between their party, the new ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition and the people.
The coalition partner – the People’s Justice Party (PKR) – is taking issue with an article that the Singapore broadsheet published this morning, entitled ‘Cracks appear in PH over posts in new Cabinet’.
The paper reported: “As Malaysia’s new government heads into its first official day of work today, cracks in the hastily put-together Pakatan Harapan (PH) alliance have begun to show right after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in last Thursday.”
Quoting certain “sources”, the paper alleged that PKR’s president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, wanted a Malay politician – not a Chinese politician – to be the finance minister while Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad announced over the weekend that Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng would helm the Ministry of Finance.
The PKR has since hit back. A senior PKR leader who declined to be named reportedly told Free Malaysia Today that the claims in the article are “completely fabricated and false”.
Adding that the PKR believes Lim, an accountant by training, is suitably qualified for the role, the leader said: “We strongly believe that the finance portfolio must be based on ability.”
He criticised: “But we don’t appreciate the narrative and claims being made against PKR, painting us as troublemakers. We believe this report is part of a concerted attempt to drive a wedge between PKR and the people, and PH, to push us out of the pact.”
Meanwhile, Universiti Malaya analyst Azman Awang Pawi felt that PKR may have been hoping for jailed leader Anwar Ibrahim to take over as Finance Minister since it is a portfolio he once held.
Azman added that the PKR should not worry though, since Lim will be advised by a council comprising prominent figures such as former finance minister Daim Zainuddin, former Bank Negara governor Zeti Akthar Aziz, former Petronas president Mohd Hassan Marican, billionaire tycoon Robert Kuok and economist KS Jomo.
Azman said: “The finance ministry is extremely important in politics. You can see how important the portfolio was to Umno in the Barisan Nasional-led government…Giving Lim the finance portfolio may not sit well with Malay conservatives, but they don’t have to worry as the Council of Elders will advise him.”
As for Lim, he has earlier clarified to reporters: “I’m Malaysian, I don’t see myself as Chinese.”