Malaysian PM resigns but stays on as interim leader

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Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad salutes the royal guard of honor during the opening ceremony of the parliament in Kuala Lumpur. (AFP)
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Anwar Ibrahim teamed up with former nemesis Mahathir Mohammad in the 2018 elections to oust Najib Razak, who had become embroiled in the massive 1MDB graft scandal. (AFP)
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Updated 24 February 2020

Malaysian PM resigns but stays on as interim leader

  • New government may exclude Mahathir’s anointed successor Anwar Ibrahim
  • Mahatir also quit the Malaysian United Indigenous Party which he founded ahead of the 2018 general election

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who resigned on Monday, will act as the country’s interim leader amid ongoing talks to form a new government coalition.
The king made the appointment on Monday.
“His Majesty has been pleased to appoint Mahathir Mohamad as the interim prime minister, pending the appointment of a new prime minister in accordance with Article 43 (2) (a) of the Federal Constitution,” Mohammed Zuki bin Ali, chief secretary to the Malaysian government, said in a statement.
The 94-year old leader would preside over the administration of the country until a new prime minister was chosen and a cabinet was formed, he added.
Mahatir also quit the Malaysian United Indigenous Party which he founded ahead of the 2018 general election, and the party announced it had left the ruling Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition.
The development follows surprise weekend talks between some coalition members and opposition groups on forming a new cabinet that would exclude Mahathir’s anointed successor Anwar Ibrahim.
Anwar is a former opposition icon who was jailed for years on widely criticized sodomy charges. He had teamed up with his former nemesis Mahathir ahead of the 2018 elections to oust the government of Najib Razak, who had become embroiled in the massive 1MDB graft scandal.
Anwar said Sunday said he had been betrayed by coalition partners. Eleven members of parliament from his People’s Justice Party formed an independent bloc.

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“Everything is in the air now,” Prof. James Chin, a political analyst from the Asia Institute at Tasmania University, told Arab News. “Both sides are trying to persuade members of parliament to join their bloc as any coalition must have a majority of MPs to form a new government. Anwar must find additional MPs to cover this shortfall if he wants to stay in power.”

Anwar’s exclusion from any new coalition would end his hopes of becoming Malaysia’s prime minister any time soon.

There were concerns that the political upheaval would upset voters and see them disengage from future political processes.

“This is creating huge doubt in the Malaysian public, most people do not really know what is happening,” Sophie Lemiere, a fellow at Stanford University, told Arab News. “The information has been very contradictory, rumors have been going on for the past three days, these have created anxiety among people. Mahathir has made a double down poker game move to make a comeback with an even greater mandate by tendering his resignation.”

There are also worries that the ongoing maneuvers may lead to an intensification of racial politics in the multicultural country. In Malaysia over 60 percent of the population is Bumiputra (of Malay and indigenous ethnicity), around 22 percent is of Chinese descent and about seven percent is Indian.
“One of the dangers is the possibility of the new coalition being a fully Bumiputra government,” according to Kuala Lumpur-based think tank IMAN Research. “This will be disastrous for race relations.”


Truck drives into US crowd protesting George Floyd killing, underscoring volatile situation

Updated 01 June 2020

Truck drives into US crowd protesting George Floyd killing, underscoring volatile situation

  • Protesters managed to stop the truck and beat up the driver, who was later arrested by police
  • A New York City Police car earlier drove into a crowd of protesters who were pelting it with objects

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota: A tanker truck drove through thousands of people marching on a Minneapolis highway to protest the death of George Floyd on Sunday before protesters dragged the driver from the cab and beat him, according to a Reuters witness and authorities.
It did not appear any of the marchers were injured when the truck raced toward them on I-35, blowing its horn, sending protesters scattering before coming to a stop, according to the witness and a tweet by the Minnesota Department of Public Security (MNDPS).
Police arrived soon after and arrested the truck driver, who was taken to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, MNDPS said.
Video of the incident shows protesters swarming the vehicle before it comes to a stop.

Protesters hand over to police the driver of a tanker truck after he drove into a crowd marching on 35W north bound highway in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 31, 2020. (REUTERS/Eric Miller)

“The incident just underscores the volatile situation we have out there,” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz told a news conference, adding he did not know the motives of the driver.
It marked the second incident in as many days of a vehicle driving at people protesting Floyd’s death after a New York City Police car was captured on video on Saturday driving into a crowd of protesters who were pelting it with objects.
“Very disturbing actions by a truck driver on I-35W, inciting a crowd of peaceful demonstrators,” MNDPS tweeted.
Video showed the truck had a logo on its side for “Kenan Advantage Group,” an Ohio-based transportation company.
The company said in a statement that it was informed of an incident involving one of its independent contractors in Minneapolis and it would be cooperating with investigating authorities.
MNDPS did not identify the driver but said the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension were investigating the incident as a criminal matter.