Malaysia denials abound as rumours of fresh political coup do the rounds

Members of Malaysia’s unity government have denied any knowledge of a purported political coup in the works after a senior government official over the weekend revealed an alleged attempt to depose Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Talk had been rife in recent weeks over an alleged meeting between opposition leaders and at least two unnamed Malaysian government MPs in Dubai to negotiate a deal to convince enough backbenchers to switch sides and topple Anwar’s administration.

It’s far from being the first time Malaysian politics have been thrown into a tailspin. At the onset of the pandemic in February 2020, several senior ruling party leaders orchestrated a coup that led to the fall of then-premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Muhyiddin Yassin brought down the reformist ruling alliance Pakatan Harapan after it had been in charge for just 22 months.
Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says the government has intelligence reports on an alleged meeting in Dubai. Photo: EPA-EFE
He defected with over 30 MPs and formed an alliance with his old party Umno – which had lost the 2018 election, defeated for the first time in over 60 years – before serving as caretaker leader for 17 months.

Now another potential scandal has reared its head. On Monday, former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who took over from Muhyiddin when he resigned in August 2021 amid a rare public reprimand from the king, said he was not aware of the alleged Dubai meeting and denied being there when it supposedly took place.

He insisted he was in Saudi Arabia at the time, for a pilgrimage to Mecca.

“I have no knowledge of it, I am not involved and I was not even there [in Dubai],” Ismail was quoted as saying by local Malay daily Berita Harian.

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A deputy minister from Ismail’s Umno party also denied being involved in any attempt to topple the government.

Deputy Minister of Human Resources Abdul Rahman Mohamad, named in a YouTube video about the so-called “Dubai Move”, said there was no way he could have been part of the meeting as he was carrying out community work in his constituency.

He said in a Facebook post on Monday that such accusations were “dangerous” as they could affect economic stability, and said he will take legal action against the owner of the YouTube account that posted the video.


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The legacy of Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal on politics and corruption-fighting

On Saturday, Ismail Yusop, the deputy director general of the government’s Community Communications Department, said opposition leaders and government representatives had allegedly met in Dubai to assign tasks to identify MPs who would potentially take bribes to switch allegiances.

The opposition has denied the allegations.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Tuesday that the government had received intelligence reports on the meeting, including the details of flights of those allegedly involved.

At a separate event, Prime Minister Anwar said the government will not be affected by talks of a coup.

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“That is [the opposition’s] work, but it does not impact us,” he was quoted as saying by English daily The Star.

Top politicians have often been mired in corruption charges, including former premier Najib Razak, who was prime minister for nine years before losing to Pakatan Harapan in 2018.

He went on trial for multiple corruption and money laundering allegations involving the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund, beginning a 12-year jail sentence in 2022.

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