PKR vice-president quits party, declares support for Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) has lost a third lawmaker after its vice-president and former minister of water, land and natural resources Xavier Jayakumar quit the party on Saturday (March 13), declaring his support for the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government as an independent.

Datuk Jayakumar, who has been with PKR since its early days in 1998, said he had grown “extremely frustrated” by events over the past year amid calls to hold an election, which he described as unnecessary during an ongoing pandemic.

“Our current priority should be to support the government in containing the Covid-19 pandemic, to create jobs, and to secure funds to rebuild the economy,” he said in a statement.

“It will take at least 18 months just to complete the vaccination programme, and more than two years for the economy to fully recover. The people want stability, and to restart our ailing economic sectors. Towards this, we need to work together, not against one another.”

With his resignation, the PKR has lost a third MP in just a matter of weeks.

Two MPs – Mr Larry Sng and Mr Steven Choong – withdrew from the party last month, pledging instead to support Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

PKR, led then Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, won 48 parliamentary seats in the last general election in 2018, but following recent defections, it now has 35 seats.

The party is currently led by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The presidential council of the opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, of which PKR is a component party, had earlier this month accused PN of using enforcement agencies to pressure opposition lawmakers into defecting, ahead of the resumption of Parliament.

Under the state of emergency declared in January, which is expected to last until August, or earlier if the Covid-19 pandemic is brought under control, parliamentary sittings are currently suspended.

“Any abuse of institutions or agencies with the intention of harassing, oppressing or intimidating political enemies is not acceptable. We believe this has been done to many including Lim Guan Eng and his wife, Larry Sng, Steven Choong, and now indirectly to Xavier Jayakumar,” the PH council said in a statement.

Mr Lim is chief of opposition Democratic Action Party.

Last month, Perak PKR deputy chairman M. A. Tinagaran, whom Mr Xavier described as “a close family friend”, was arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over allegations of graft.

“In a recent media report, my name was implicated, and it has brought prejudice against me as an elected representative,” Mr Xavier had said in a statement at the time.

“Acting on the advice of my family and friends, I am here to clear my name with the authorities. Leaders tied to corruption must be accountable to preserve the integrity of our institution and we are responsible to show good governance.”

“M. A. Tinagaran is not an aide of mine as falsely reported, but a close family friend,” he said.

PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution in a statement on Saturday claimed that a “senior minister” had contacted Mr Jayakumar, telling him to support the PN government or face serious consequences.

He added that Mr Jayakumar had informed the PKR leadership that MACC made him a “target” of investigations, and had arrested his political secretary, personal aide and other acquaintances. 

These were part of efforts by the government to gain support from opposition MPs by using the police, Inland Revenue Board and MACC, alleged Datuk Seri Saifuddin.

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