The day the Pakatan Harapan government fell…and why

A new book by DAP’s Liew Chin Tong recalls last-minute efforts by PH leaders to restore the coalition government.

(Malaysia Now) – PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim had to be persuaded to “fight another day” after he was angered by a compromise deal reached by Pakatan Harapan (PH) to reinstate the original Cabinet with Dr Mahathir Mohamad as prime minister and his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as the deputy, a new book by a senior DAP leader has revealed.

Johor DAP chairman Liew Chin Tong also said Anwar had claimed to have the numbers to be made prime minister, following the power vacuum created by Mahathir’s resignation in February 2020.

Liew recalled a meeting of the PH presidential council attended by leaders of PKR, DAP and Amanah, just a day after Mahathir’s resignation on Feb 24, 2020 which led to the collapse of the coalition government.

“Anwar informed the council that he had a high chance to secure the votes from Sarawak’s GPS as he was negotiating with them. Also, he claimed that his palace contacts informed him that the palace would likely accept a minority government,” Liew, who served as deputy defence minister under the PH government, said in his newly published book “Lim Kit Siang: Patriot, Leader, Fighter”.

“As Mahathir was not interested in becoming Harapan’s prime minister anymore, DAP and Amanah had to back Anwar as prime minister at the palace on Feb 26,” he added.

Mahathir had not attended the meeting despite a request by DAP.

Liew was recalling the days leading to Muhyiddin Yassin’s appointment as prime minister following a series of audiences between MPs and Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah to fill the power vacuum created by Mahathir’s resignation.

His resignation followed the move by his party Bersatu to break ranks with PH, and to join hands with several PKR MPs led by Mohamed Azmin Ali to form a new government outside of the coalition, in what is now known as the Sheraton Move due to a series of meetings which took place at the hotel.

The move came days after a meeting between top PH leaders to discuss a date for Anwar to take over the prime ministership from Mahathir, amid pressure from pro-Anwar factions in PKR as well as from the Cabinet.

Anwar was named by PH to take over from Mahathir mid-term, but no date was fixed. Mahathir had insisted that he would step down after the 2020 summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

Following Mahathir’s resignation and the collapse of the PH government, Liew said there were frantic efforts by DAP leaders to bring Anwar and Mahathir together, in the hope of reviving the tattered coalition.

He said leaders including Anwar had gathered at Mahathir’s residence to work out a solution, with intermediaries negotiating between the two politicians.

“Mahathir was seated in the dining room with Anwar and the rest of us in the living room. Mahathir’s daughter Marina, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Loke (Siew Fook) were in and out between the two rooms,” he wrote.

But Liew said the efforts failed as Anwar was upset by the proposal to reinstate the original Cabinet with his wife as deputy prime minister.

“Anwar, however, stormed off from Mahathir’s house after nearly three hours of negotiations, mostly through intermediaries, apart from the first 20 minutes which saw both men arguing with each other.”

Liew said DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng had been ready to forgo his position at the finance ministry for Anwar, but that the offer was rejected.

As the clock ticked towards the palace’s announcement of who commanded support as prime minister, PH leaders worked hard to convince Anwar to compromise.

Liew said as Anwar respects Lim Kit Siang, a group of them went to the latter’s house in Petaling Jaya, woke him up from his nap, and brought him to meet Anwar.

“As Kit Siang said ‘let’s live to fight another day!’, Anwar relented and agreed to the proposal of a second Mahathir-Azizah government as a way out,” Liew said.

The palace eventually announced that Muhyiddin had the numbers needed to form the next government.

The Perikatan Nasional government was later established with the support of Umno, GPS and PAS MPs, ending PH’s 22-month administration.