Police to haul up Mahathir over Bugis community comment

This article is more than 12 months old

Malaysia's police chief said yesterday that Tun Mahathir Mohamad will be hauled up over an alleged insult against the Bugis community.

It comes hours after Selangor's palace confirmed that awards conferred on the former premier and his wife had been revoked - Dr Mahathir and Tun Siti Hasmah had returned the awards last week - following an escalating flap over his October "Bugis pirate" statement.

Repeated criticism by the Sultan of Selangor, who is of Bugis descent, has been damaging for the opposition pact - already being accused of being anti-Malay and Islam - now led by Dr Mahathir.

Malaysia's longest-serving leader has held his tongue after a month-long row with one of Malaysia's nine revered Malay kings.

But Dr Mahathir's act last week of returning the two awards unbidden - given in 1978 and 2003 by the Selangor Palace - followed in turn by Tun Siti Hasmah Ali, also sent a signal that the 92-year-old will not bend his knee to the royals in his quest to unseat Prime Minister Najib Razak.

In a country where engaging in a war of words with a sovereign is akin to treason and deeply unpopular among the Malay majority, the move is the strongest unspoken statement of protest.

Dr Mahathir, whose 22 years in power saw royal powers being limited, responded to such a suggestion yesterday by saying, "I don't know, that's your conclusion?"

During the "Love Malaysia, end kleptocracy" rally in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, on Oct 14, Dr Mahathir repeated allegations of graft against Mr Najib and called him a descendent of a "Bugis pirate". The remark sparked outrage from the Johor and Selangor palaces as well as the Bugis community in Malaysia and Indonesia.

In an interview last week, Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Salahuddin told The Star that Dr Mahathir had an inferiority complex and his "anger would burn the country".

The Pakatan Harapan chairman may not put much stock in royal relations, but analysts note that his colleagues do, especially as they struggle to win support from Malays.

The irony is that Dr Mahathir was supposed to solve this problem for the opposition.