KOTA KINABALU, July 1 — Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob told the public today that he is a prime minister from Barisan Nasional, and therefore an attack against him would also be an attack on the coalition's leadership.
He said that he has been at the receiving end of brickbats from many parties and that he had to fend off speculations on many occasions, even from his own side of the political divide.
"I hope those among us can give their support in facing these attacks. An attack on the government means you are attacking BN’s leadership. And I am in the government representing Umno and the BN.
"I am the PM from BN, not PM from another party. Attacking me means weakening the BN leadership. So I ask for your support here,” he said during his speech at a dinner among the coalition in conjunction with the Sabah BN convention here tomorrow.
Ismail Sabri, who is here on a short half-day trip, said he insisted on speaking at the event tonight to make up for missing tomorrow’s convention because he needs to clarify his position.
"I was not supposed to be speaking tonight, I was given a slot to speak at tomorrow’s convention but I apologise for not being able to attend because I have to attend the MTUC’s annual meeting,” he said, accusing the Malaysian Trades Union Congress of not being traditionally close to BN due to DAP influence.
"I have to explain this here to avoid speculation of all sorts,” he said, drawing an example from when he did not attend the Umno Supreme Council meeting because he had to represent the country in an international meeting being hosted by President Xi Jinping with 17 other head of states and government leaders.
"I had informed the party president, but still all sorts of stories came up, like I was boycotting the party meeting and there were many resolutions made that night. So now everyone has to know what I’m doing otherwise there will be all kinds of speculations,” he said.
He said that he insisted on speaking at tonight’s event, even if only for five minutes to prevent talk that the prime minister is prohibited from speaking at the Sabah BN convention.
"Today, even though PBS is part of the government, they’ve begun to attack us with the belief that the election is nearing. But to face GE15, we must start attacking the opposition, and not one of our own,” he said.
He was referring to Parti Bersatu Sabah president Datuk Seri Maximus Ongkili who had earlier today blamed a BN party for the state’s migrant issues by giving out Malaysian identity cards in exchange for votes.
He stopped short of naming the party but said it was a known fact.
The Bera MP said it was evident that not only outside forces, but allies were trying to create disunity and pressure is getting stronger as talk of the election gets heated.
Ismail Sabri added that any character assassination would only create unnecessary competition within their own ranks when the real challenge was against the opposition.