Saifuddin linked to Sheraton move

For two years, former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and caretaker International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali have been labelled as the masterminds behind the February 2020 “Sheraton Move”.

(NST) – However, Pakatan Harapan communications director Fahmi Fadzil claimed that there was a “silent mastermind” behind the plan, which led to the collapse of the PH government due to the defections of its members of parliament.

Fahmi has singled out caretaker Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah, who was the then PH chief secretary, as being heavily involved in planning the downfall of the PH federal administration.

“I should’ve known early on that there were people out to undermine PH, and chief among them were people closest to me.

“I wasn’t part of the PH presidential council, but there were people like Saifuddin Abdullah, who was the chief secretary, and I worked a lot with him.

“He (Saifuddin) was one of the people (involved).

“When I spoke to some of his ex-staff members months after the Sheraton Move, I discovered that he had been drawing up (plans) in a hotel with his team… war-gaming the Sheraton Move,” he said in an interview with the New Straits Times on Tuesday.

The NST has made attempts to reach Saifuddin for his response to the allegations.

As at press time, the NST did not receive any reply.

Fahmi, who is defending the Lembah Pantai parliamentary seat in the 15th General Election (GE15), claimed Saifuddin had mapped out several plans for the Sheraton Move according to what the latter expected would transpire.

He said it was regretful that a person who had held an important position in PH such as Saifuddin would resort to toppling the coalition.

“At the time, they had Plan A and (so on).

“They (Saifuddin’s former employees) saw this and that. When Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned (as prime minister), they said ‘this is not part of the plan’.

“This is an example of one of the communications in his team that was later revealed to me.

“And the hotel is nearby (in Petaling Jaya), not that one (Sheraton Petaling Jaya), but another hotel.

“Some people did this to undermine (PH) and I think whatever problems they had between the parties or some of the leadership, it shouldn’t have gone to a level where they had to sabotage PH.”

In February 2020, the political crisis dubbed the “Sheraton Move” saw the fall of the ruling PH government and Dr Mahathir’s resignation after 22 months in power.

The PH federal administration was replaced by the Perikatan Nasional coalition led by Muhyiddin, and included Barisan Nasional members of parliament.

Political instability continued throughout 2020 and into 2021, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This culminated with the resignation of Muhyiddin and his cabinet in August 2021, after 17 months in power.

A few days later, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was appointed as the ninth prime minister to replace Muhyiddin.

These crises triggered several state elections and GE15, which will be held on Nov 19.

Fahmi said PH believed that the abolished Goods and Services Tax (GST) would be reintroduced if BN won Putrajaya in GE15.

He said given that caretaker Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz had implied the return of GST, it was only appropriate for BN to confirm its intention on the matter.

Although Tengku Zafrul had dismissed it, saying the government had not discussed the reintroduction of GST, Fahmi pointed to the former’s remark on the day of the 2023 Budget tabling.

After the tabling of the budget, in response to a question by the media on the plan to reintroduce GST, Tengku Zafrul said the idea would be discussed next year, depending on the state of the economy then.

“GST will 100 per cent be reintroduced (if BN returns to power). Tengku Zafrul has implied that this is something they are seriously looking into. It is as though there is no recognition of PH’s mandate after winning GE14, which was to remove GST.

“We saw that the implementation was problematic. If anyone intends (to reintroduce GST), they must make it clear now. If BN or Zafrul wants to bring back GST, it must be in the BN manifesto.

“Don’t try to sneak it in like in the middle of the night and expect people to just swallow it. Be clear, be forthright.”

He added that BN needed to understand the situation the public was in.

Given the negative impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic and its aftereffects, he said reintroducing GST would be the worse solution as it would only empty the people’s pockets.

“Everyone is expecting (tougher) times next year. You can’t have this kind of taxation system at this current juncture when everybody is suffering.

“It (reintroducing GST) means, whatever you are paying right now for your roti canai, probably RM1.50 or RM2 in some places, you will have to pay more because as we have seen, one of the biggest pitfalls of GST was the refund system.”

Malaysia’s GST of six per cent was introduced in 2015 during former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration, but it was scrapped three years later after PH took over Putrajaya.

PH’s pledge to do away with the consumption tax was one of the key agendas in its manifesto for GE14, which saw BN being toppled after more than six decades in power.

Ismail Sabri, who is caretaker prime minister, in an interview with Nikkei in May this year, had said the government was keen on reintroducing the tax despite its unpopularity.

He said Putrajaya had limited options, and it had lost RM20 billion in annual revenue after the tax was abolished.

He also said the government would target a GST rate that would not burden the people, but was not so low that it would “defeat the purpose of expanding tax revenue”.