Friday March 1, 2013
Busy fighting the enemy within
Comment by JOCELINE TAN
Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak has survived several health scares and is moving to secure his Mentri Besar post as well as to put in place his choice of successor in Kedah.
IT is quite fortunate that Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak has a great sense of humour given the periodic speculation about his health.
The Kedah Mentri Besar has grown quite used to people imagining that he is about to meet his maker.
For instance, there was a death in his house on the outskirts of Alor Setar last Sunday. His sister-in-law, the elder sibling of Azizan’s first wife, had passed away and there were cars parked outside the house and people milling about.
When a reporter called to tell him that people had wondered what was going on, he quipped: “Is that why you phoned me? To ask if I had died?”
That is why many reporters like him – he is terribly witty when in a good mood and sharp-tongued when feeling grouchy, but never boring.
Actually, Azizan is looking quite healthy these days. He seems to be responding to treatment after a series of health scares over the past year. He has put a bit of weight back on and looks like his old distinguished self.
However, curiosity over the activity at his house last weekend had more to do with his political health.
For the last week or so, PAS supporters had been staging protests against Azizan with some of them going to the extent of asking him to step down.
As such when people heard about the busy scene at Azizan’s house, they thought he was bowing to the pressure to call it a day.
It was wishful thinking because that is the last thing on his mind. Azizan has made it clear that he will be leading his party into the general election. He intends to defend his Sungai Limau seat and he has not discounted the fact that he will still be Mentri Besar after the election.
His supporters argue that if Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, who is 81 and sickly, is still contesting the election, Azizan who is 13 years younger can do the same.
But the problem is that Azizan is planning to put his opponents in PAS out of his way. He has submitted a fresh list of election candidates to the PAS central leadership that will effectively cut his opponents off from below the knee.
In the new list, Datuk Phahrolrazi Mohd Zawawi, who is Azizan’s chief threat to the Mentri Besar post, will be sent from the Pengkalan Kundor state seat to the Jerlun parliamentary seat. Datuk Dr Ismail Salleh and Datuk Dr Hamdan Mohd Khalid, the two assemblymen aligned to Phahrolrazi, will be dropped.
It was as good as sending Phahrolrazi, who is the party’s No 2 man in Kedah, into political exile. Phahrolrazi’s state seat is located in the Kuala Kedah area where he is also the PAS division chief. Being sent to Jerlun is akin to being plucked from a tree in his own garden and chucked into a new and hostile backyard to grow anew.
But who can blame Azizan for wanting Phahrolrazi out of the way? Phahrolrazi’s group had tried but failed to topple Azizan when he was lying on a hospital bed recovering from a heart attack.
Azizan would have to continually look over his shoulder if Phahrolrazi continues as an assemblyman.
Last year, Phahrolrazi declined to be reappointed as a state exco member. The PAS central leadership had to intervene and when Phahrolrazi relented and rejoined the state exco, Azizan demoted him to a less important portfolio and promoted another loyalist Datuk Taulan Mat Rasul over Phahrolrazi.
The state civil servants say the two men are barely talking. However, the two nemeses exchanged broad plastic smiles and even shook hands in front of their president Datuk Seri Hadi Awang during the Chinese New Year do in Alor Setar.
Phahrolrazi was on a talk show on Astro Awani last week during which he described his boss as a three-cylinder engine car. As everyone knows, a three-cylinder car is economical to maintain but it cannot go as fast as, say, the BMW, which has a six-cylinder engine.
Phahrolrazi is an engineer and it was his way of saying that the Mentri Besar was under-performing when he should be zooming ahead at the speed of a BMW car. And if that was not enough, he said he was prepared to take on the top job if that is what the top leadership wanted.
It was a touchy interview and the boss did not appreciate being described as a three-cylinder vehicle.
By pulling Phahrolrazi out of Kuala Kedah, Azizan was also sending a clear signal of who he prefers as his would-be successor.
The deputy PAS chief of the Kuala Kedah division Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah is Azizan’s ally. Amiruddin has been a pillar of support for Azizan throughout the power struggle crisis and this will be his reward.
Azizan has a love-hate relationship with the media. He once stalked out of a press conference because he was angry over the way some media outlets were reporting on the floods in Kedah.
Right now, according to some reporters in Kedah, it is not quite love or hate, but something in between.
But Azizan’s relationship with Phahrolrazi is definitely not in the love zone. Azizan will be fighting enemies inside as well as outside PAS in the general election.