Commentary Politics

The maverick in Shahidan keeps Perlis in the news

The key players -- (from left) Azlan, Raja of Perlis, Shahidan.

The key players -- (from left) Azlan, Raja of Perlis, Shahidan.

Written by Aziz Hassan

March 25, 2018.

Recollections & Reflections – A commentary

MOST eyes had been on the political goings-on in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya since the Pakatan Harapan coalition defeated the country’s only governing coalition in the last 61 years in the 14th general elections on May 9, with only a small number probably aware that a storm was brewing in the tiny northern state of Perlis.

It went on for about two weeks and yesterday, Datuk Seri Azlan Man was sworn in for a second term before the Ruler in a ceremony boycotted by the other nine Barisan Nasional assemblymen (adun) and which earned the displeasure of the Ruler.

After the elections, former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, as the state Barisan Nasional and Umno chairman, revealed that his younger brother Datuk Ismail had been nominated to replace Azlan.

Subsequently, on May 16, the Ruler summoned the Aduns to the palace, presumably to determine who they supported for the post of MB. Strange that this was not followed by an immediate statement. Instead two senior national Umno leaders – Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein – had an audience with the Ruler at the Arau palace on Tuesday.

That there was no immediate swearing in of Azlan appeared to indicate that it was not an open and shut situation, that the BN Aduns were backing Ismail. Their boycott of the ceremony yesterday gave weigh to this assumption – an assumption because we haven’t had an official statement on who supports who.

In Kuala Lumpur, press reports said Shahidan, the nine Aduns and others had a meeting with Zahid, after which Shahidan stated that Perlis Umno had sacked Azlan. Another news report said it had asked national Umno chiefs to sack Azlan from the party.

What makes it a bumpy ride for Azalan is that this time most of the Aduns are known to have been with Shahidan’s camp for quite some time now.

Another interesting development is the latest statement by Ismail that he had taken himself out of the equation and would like the Ruler to consider the other eight Aduns so as to shoo away any accusations of favouritism by Shahidan and that he would end up as a puppet MB. Either way, it is clear that Azlan does not have the majority support of the assemblymen.

By the way this is the second time Perlis is experiencing an issue over the appointment of the mentri besar.

The first was soon after the 2008 general elections when, despite having a letter endorsing his appointment from then Umno leader Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (Tun), the Ruler didn’t agree to proceed with Shahidan’s appointmentit. Instead the Ruler summoned the Aduns to the Istana Perlis in KL where they were reported to have told the Ruler that they didn’t support Shahidan. That paved the way for Md. Isa Sabu (Datuk Seri) to replace Shahidan who had held the post from May 1995 to March 2008.

The story then was that two senior politicians from Perlis had played a crucial role in the background. Md. Isa incidentally was an aide to former minister Tan Sri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad.

In agreeing with the nomination of Md. Isa, the Ruler in a statement said he had invoked Article 39 (2) of the Laws of the Constitution of Perlis which refers to the candidate that has the majority support of assemblymen.

Thus the best way to solve this impasse is simple and fits into the constitutional role of a Ruler – go back to that Article 39 (2).

Guan Eng needs to separate his roles as politician and minister – fast

Amongst the new ministers recently sworn in before the King, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng appears to be the most active in doing the talking, especially in relation to issues on the sovereign debts and 1MDB.

The latter is something that is not bound to go away anytime soon. Despite the gossips and official statements we have heard on this in the last three years, the files are beginning to be re-opened with the help of some foreign governments and by the looks of it, a few persons will eventually be charged.

The new government has formed a committee and also a task force to investigate 1MDB further, although it’s quite difficult trying to distinguish how one is different from the other but since we have this, it’s best for anyone else to let them do their job. Those with information that could help build up a case should be talking either to the committee or the task force. Making remarks that sound more political than legal or factual is not going to take anyone anywhere.

This is where Guan Eng seemed to have lost the plot because his personal thoughts on certain executives in 1MDB are not going to make any difference if and when there is indeed a case against them. So too the statements about the unbelievably bad financial situation of 1MDB.

This is where Guan Eng has got his two roles all muddled up. For the sake of the image of the very new Pakatan government, he needs to polish up his role as a federal minister, failing which his statements or remarks with a heavy political undertone may turn out to be a liability to the administration of which he is a part.

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.