Asia Malaysia War of words between Dr Mahathir and Johor crown prince continues

War of words between Dr Mahathir and Johor crown prince continues

"He can speak about anything like a normal citizen, can criticise the government as long as he doesn’t break the law. If he makes statements which can be considered seditious, we will take action against him,” said the Malaysian PM

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Kuala Lumpur—Prime Minister Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad and Johor Crown Prince Ismail Sultan Ibrahim have been at odds for some time now, with much of the fight occurring over social media.

On Tuesday, April 9, in the latest skirmish between them, the Malaysian Prime Minister admitted that the Johor Royal has a right to criticize the government.

However, Dr Mahathir emphasised, he is not above the law. Channel NewsAsia reports him as saying “He can speak about anything like a normal citizen, can criticise the government as long as he doesn’t break the law. If he makes statements which can be considered seditious, we will take action against him.”

Nothing can stop the crown prince from airing his opinions since he is a Malaysian citizen, the Prime Minister told the media at a press conference in the lobby of Parliament.

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However, Dr Mahathir added,

“He is not above the law. In fact, nobody in Malaysia is above the law …  If he wants to be a politician, he can. But there is nothing to prevent any citizen of Malaysia from expressing his or her opinions.”

Crown Prince Ismail Sultan Ibrahim fired back at Dr Mahathir on social media. On his Twitter account, he wrote, “If I have to go down defending the constitution, the Malay rulers and Islam. By all means. You know where to find me.

As an ordinary citizen, I have the right to ask questions and give opinions. I’m all yours. Finish what you start.”

Latest issues: the Menteri Besar and the ICC

The latest issue between Dr Mahathir and the crown prince has to do with the replacement of the Johor Menteri Besar or Chief Minister. Osman Sapian stepped down on Tuesday after rumours had spread that he would indeed be replaced.

The crown prince tweeted that it was his father, the Sultan of Johor, who decreed that Mr Osman should step down.

“His Majesty has looked into changing the chief minister since months ago. Don’t forget, the power to appoint the chief minister is the sultan’s absolute right.”

However, he also asserted that someone else wishes to “claim credit and mileage” by ordering that the Mentor Besar be changed.

He tweeted, “Enough with politicking,”

After which he also tweeted, “I hope the new Chief Minister is not the only “yes man” of Putrajaya. The well-being of the people and the prosperity of the State of Johor must be prioritized.”

Photo: Twitter screengrab

On Friday, April 3, Dr Mahathir announced that Malaysia was withdrawing from the International Criminal Court (ICC) due to “confusion among the rulers” as well as political pressure.

The crown prince also took issue with this, claiming that the Conference of Rulers had not been consulted in the matter. He also said that Malay rulers could possibly be the target of those who wish to sabotage the royal families, via “orchestrated war crimes”.

Past skirmishes

The crown prince has not been one to hold back criticizing the Malaysian Government.

In October, when there was talk of building the “crooked bridge” between Singapore and Malaysia, the crown prince said that healthcare should take priority.

He Tweeted “In my opinion, it’s better to go ahead with the hospital in Pasir Gudang that the government tunda (postponed) and increase the healthcare budget for the state. All hospitals in JB, including districts, needed (sic) more beds and medical equipment. Just my humble opinion.”

At the beginning of the year, he also appealed to the PH government to stop fighting amongst each other and to start actually governing in another Facebook post.

He wrote, “I really want the government to be successful. I wake up every day hoping to be wrong. But, they keep proving me right. I did the same with the old government. And I’m doing the same now. No difference. Just wanting the best for the people. Some may not like what I say but that’s the challenge. To keep speaking up for the rakyat (people)who can’t. Let me be public enemy No.1 if I have to be. I’m consistent and stand by my principles. Please… Please start Governing. Please stop fighting amongst each other, Please stop politicizing every issue. Sometimes I get it wrong. Everyone makes mistakes. For the mistakes that I’ve made, I’m sorry. I think we all should reflect on 2018 and be sorry for the wrongs.

Well, it’s 2019, let’s get it right now. Let’s politicise less. Let’s popularise less over social media. Let’s make better decisions. Let’s cooperate and accept each other’s space and duty. Let’s serve the people and deliver the best for our country.”

Dr Mahathir was none too pleased with the Crown Prince’s words and said that Tunku Ismail needs to understand better the differences between issues under the state and federal governments.

Dr. Mahathir emphasized his many years as a leader. “The crown prince probably does not understand the concept of a federation. Perhaps, he wasn’t born yet, but I was around at the time. We have a list of what falls under the power of the federation, and what falls under the state.”/ TISG

Read related: Crown Prince of Johor appeals to government to stop infighting and prioritise the people

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