Saturday September 1, 2012
Rumour mill afire in Kedah
ANALYSIS By JOCELINE TAN
The Kedah Mentri Besar has been unwell since the fasting month and there is renewed politicking behind the scenes over the question of appointing an acting mentri besar.
THE Mentri Besar of Kedah is unwell and has been in and out of the Kedah Medical Centre over the last three weeks.
Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak turned up briefly for the Raya open house at the Kedah palace on the first day of Syawal but had to skip his own Hari Raya do at his Seri Mentaloon official residence.
PAS officials have been quite secretive about the state of his health or even the reasons for his illness. His family has discouraged visitors. They insist he needs complete rest and only top party officials have been allowed to visit.
Even State Secretary Datuk Rasli Basir has not been able to see him although some said that is because Azizan and Rasli have not been on good terms for some time now.
When information is not forthcoming, the rumour mill takes over and accounts about his health have ranged from claims that he has been unable to stand or sit up to stories that his face has swelled up like a balloon.
Datuk Phahrolrazi Mohd Zawawi, the state exco member once seen as the man to succeed Azizan, was also in the dark about the condition of his boss.
“I honestly have no idea. It is like a top secret in the state. I heard one or two people were allowed to visit him but not me. What I know is what I read in the newspapers,” said the state exco member who was at the centre of a power struggle to replace Azizan a year ago.
The powerful PAS secretary-general Datuk Mustafa Ali flew down to see Azizan on Thursday. He met briefly with state exco member Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah before proceeding to the hospital but did not meet anyone else in the party.
Mustafa’s visit has led to renewed talk that an acting mentri besar may be appointed to fill in for Azizan during his convalescence.
It is said that the party’s top trouble-shooter was despatched by the central leadership to assess the state of Azizan’s health and to see if there is a need for some contingency measures. His Kedah visit has been very hush-hush and according to some, it was almost like a secret mission.
But Mustafa has insisted that it was a solicitous visit and said that Azizan is recuperating well.
“He over-extended himself during the puasa month. Now the doctors want to keep a close eye on him and make sure he does not skip his medication,” he said.
Azizan’s health has always been a sensitive topic for PAS and the issue of appointing an acting mentri besar is an even more sensitive topic for Azizan.
He has fought off moves for such an appointment and no one, not even party president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang, dares broach him on the matter.
Earlier, there were suggestions for a deputy mentri besar but Kedah’s Constitution does not allow for such a post and the acting post is only permitted under special circumstances.
However, Azizan’s devoted press secretary Helme Khalid has assured everyone that his boss is recovering and eager to get back to work.
This was earlier in the week. Yesterday, Azizan was absent from the state-level Merdeka celebration in Alor Setar. Instead, Datuk Taulan Mat Rasul, a syariah lawyer and the second most senior state exco member, represented him on the VIP stand.
During the mentri besar’s official Hari Raya open house last week, Amiruddin represented the mentri besar. As a result, Amiruddin and Taulan are now viewed to be in line to fill the post of acting mentri besar should the need arise.
Quite ironically, the first time that moves to appoint an acting mentri besar started was during the fasting month last year after Azizan suffered a heart attack and was out of action for several months.
At that time, Phahrolrazi was regarded as the man to fill the post because he was the most senior state exco member after Azizan.
The relationship between Azizan and Phahrolrazi went downhill after that. Things between them deteriorated to such an extent that Phahrolrazi and another exco member Dr Ismail Salleh declined to take the annual pledge to renew their state exco term of office, leading to a mini political crisis for Azizan.
Taulan is uncomfortable about the speculation over the post of acting mentri besar.
He and Azizan go back a long way and he said: “Don’t bring my name in please, we are together as a team.”
Actually, it is Kedah civil servants rather than PAS leaders who are keen to have an acting mentri besar so that the administration can proceed a little more smoothly.
The last state exco meeting took place two weeks before Hari Raya. It was a brief meeting because the mentri besar felt unwell shortly after the meeting began.
According to Taulan, Azizan’s present health problem began from a bout of food poisoning. The mentri besar had been very active at the start of the fasting month, going from district to district to break fast and pray with the people.
It was during one of these occasions that he was struck down by food poisoning and had to be warded.
As he was recovering in hospital, he contracted an allergy to some medication and things became quite complicated.
Azizan is quite a fighter and everyone expects him to get well. But the concern of PAS leaders is whether Azizan will be fit enough to lead the state in the general election.
A year ago, as rumours were raging on about his recovery from the heart attack, Azizan had turned up at the Kedah open house hosted by his party looking quite well, smiling broadly and turning on that kampung charm of his.
Today is Kedah PAS’ open house at the party headquarters in Batu 9. Some are expecting the mentri besar to make a brief appearance and if he does, it will help quell rumours about his health and dash the hopes of those hoping to fill his shoes.