Political tensions in Malaysia erupted into a scuffle at parliament Thursday, witnesses said, as angry ruling party members confronted an opposition veteran.
Karpal Singh, a 69-year-old wheelchair-user and opposition politician, enraged the youth wing of the ruling UMNO party with a feisty performance in parliament this week where he accused them of sending him bullets in the mail.
Karpal, chairman of the Democratic Action Party which is part of the opposition alliance, said a group of 20 UMNO Youth members confronted him at parliament and demanded he apologise.
“This is a very dangerous precedent. We can’t allow it as we have a duty to carry out here as lawmakers,” he told AFP.
Another DAP lawmaker, Lim Lip Eng, said he was assaulted as he tried to help Karpal escape the pushing and shoving which broke out at one of the entrances to parliament.
The political temperature has been rising in Malaysia since general elections a year ago that saw the opposition gain unprecedented ground, winning a third of seats in the national parliament.
Karpal sparked controversy this month when he threatened to take legal action against the sultan of Perak state, who had ordered the opposition to quit the state assembly and allow the UMNO-led coalition to take power.
In parliament Wednesday, Karpal accused his political opponents of being responsible for two bullets he received in the mail, and proclaimed “Singh is King” after the title of a new Bollywood movie.
“Where did the damn UMNO youth fellows get the bullets?” Karpal asked, according to the New Straits Times. “Singh is King. I am not afraid. They made 100 police reports, sent me two bullets and demonstrated.”
UMNO Youth member Mukhriz Mahathir said Karpal should be charged with sedition for the bullets comment, and that he should show more respect to the constitutional monarchy.
“I would also like to remind Karpal not to be too arrogant to the extent of not respecting our Malay rulers,” he said in a statement.
UMNO Youth secretary Abdul Rahman Dahlan confirmed members of the influential party wing were involved in the scuffle.
“It’s a very serious accusation by Karpal as an experienced MP. We have 700,000 members and we might not be able to control all of them,” he told AFP.