Malaysia gripped in wave of denials, accusations over alleged ‘Dubai Move’ plot to topple

The next day, former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is also an UMNO vice-president, denied that he was involved in the meeting. He said he was never in Dubai, and was instead in Mecca and Medina to perform the minor pilgrimage, Berita Harian reported.

Sarawak premier and GPS chairman Abang Johari Openg also dismissed the move as a “waste of time”, telling local media on Jan 1 that GPS supports the unity government for political stability, which would help economic growth and in turn benefit Sarawak.

He brushed aside speculation that the plan involved installing him as the next prime minister, saying that his potential premiership would eventually come under pressure as GPS only held 23 seats in parliament.

BN’s 30 seats and GPS’ 23 seats make up the second- and third-largest proportions of the government bloc, meaning they are integral to any potential plan to topple the unity government.

On Jan 2, Mr Anwar himself chimed in on the Dubai Move, saying it had no impact on his administration that was focused on developing the nation and looking after the people’s well-being. “Their deception for me has no effect,” he told local media.

UMNO chief Mr Ahmad Zahid, who’s deputy prime minister, confirmed that such a plan existed, citing “intelligence” reports of the Dubai flights the plotters took. 

However, he told reporters the plan was “ill-conceived”, and that previous attempts to topple the government had failed.

Former Pejuang deputy president Marzuki Yahya also came out to deny that Dr Mahathir was involved in the Dubai move, calling the accusations “baseless”.

He said this was because Dr Mahathir – who was once chairman of the Pejuang party – had not been abroad in the past few weeks, Sinar Premium reported.


Universiti Malaya political analyst Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the Dubai Meeting could have taken place because certain people were “panicking” that Mr Anwar had made it his core agenda to rid the country of corruption.

“These are people who are currently being investigated or who have yet to be investigated,” he said, without naming them, noting that these individuals were interested in self-preservation.

Despite that, Dr Awang Azman said it is unrealistic that the unity government would fall as it currently holds a two-thirds majority (152 out of 222 seats) in parliament. 

Any political coup would first need the GPS MPs to leave the government bloc and destroy this two-thirds majority, he said.

Independent analyst Asrul Hadi Sani said he believes Mr Daim is a “significant factor” in the Dubai meeting taking place, especially with the ongoing federal investigation into his assets and his “close relationship” with Mr Abang Johari.

“The key is not UMNO but GPS. If Mahathir and Daim are able to convince Abang Johari not to support Anwar, then there could be a possible domino effect of MPs switching their support,” he told CNA.

“Without GPS, it is unlikely the federal government will be toppled.”

Unlike a divided UMNO, which Mr Asrul Hadi feels could only offer 10 MPs willing to switch support, the notion of 23 GPS MPs defecting will carry weight and create momentum, he said.

“Unlike Zahid, who doesn’t have the support of all his party members, Abang Johari has control over all of his MPs in deciding who to support in parliament as prime minister,” he added.

“However, 23 plus 10 may push other MPs within UMNO and other parties to not support Anwar.”

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