Thursday March 8, 2012
Bigger storm looms in Kedah
By JOCELINE TAN
The Kedah Government has been rocked by a power struggle in PAS but a bigger political storm is about to break very soon.
KEDAH Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak is in hospital and about to undergo an eye operation that will hopefully improve his deteriorating vision.
The sanitised calm of the VIP ward is probably a welcome reprieve for him after a tumultuous fortnight of fighting for his political survival.
Among his visitors yesterday were PAS vice-president Salahuddin Ayub and treasurer Dr Hatta Ramli who spent about an hour with him asking about his health and, well, talking business.
The worse may be over for Azizan but there may be more trouble to come because the party’s decision to appoint a steering committee to oversee the running of the state government has not gone down well with people in Kedah.
The question on everyone’s lips is: What right does an outside party or group of individuals have over the Kedah Government?
“The sense is that this committee will be telling the MB what to do or not do and for most people, it sounds like interfering in the affairs of the state,” said Kedah-born publisher Datuk A. Kadir Jasin.
The idea of the steering committee was hatched after PAS’ central leadership met the opposing camps in Alor Setar last weekend when it became clear that there was no way that Azizan and the opposing faction led by local warlord Datuk Phahrolrazi Mohd Zawawi would be able to work as a team.
Azizan and Phahrolrazi have been at loggerheads since last year and this proposal was aimed at ending the political impasse.
It was a compromise formula that would enable Azizan to continue as the Mentri Besar and pave the way for Pharolrazi and his ally Dr Ismail Salleh to rejoin the state exco without losing too much face.
The last few months of infighting in PAS has finally come to this.
The committee, according to most accounts, will be the mediator or higher authority to turn to in the event of fresh disputes between Azizan and Phahrolrazi on matters affecting the state government.
But it has left a bad taste in the mouth of many Kedahans, especially those in the civil service.
Kedah, historically an Unfederated Malay State, has its own civil service system that answers to the Sultan and the civil servants are appalled at the idea of a political body from outside making decisions about state policies and matters.
They think the proposal does not respect state conventions and shows that PAS does not understand the functioning of a state government.
Some even think it is insensitive to the sovereignty of the state and that it is a big blunder.
The party is now scrambling to clear the air about the matter.
“Our role is advisory in nature. If there is conflict, they can bring their dissatisfaction to the committee but we cannot interfere in the Kedah Government. We will be advising the party, not the government,” said Salahuddin, who was a key mediator in the political conflict.
The PAS central leadership will decide on the composition of this committee on Monday and it will probably comprise party leaders who have a legal background and some experience in state administration.
But PAS is probably aware by now that the Kedah Palace is highly concerned about the latest development and has made known its displeasure.
The state government comprises elected representatives and civil servants, and the general view is that an external political body has no right to make decisions on their behalf.
“It’s like having a government within a government. I can’t see how it will work without undermining the state government. People would not know whether a decision is being made by the MB or the steering committee. If an exco member objects to the MB’s decision, can he run to the steering committee and say, stop the MB?” said businessman Juhaidi Yean Abdullah who has written several books on Malay politics.
But more than that, it makes a mockery of the Pakatan Rakyat set-up.
The Kedah Government is supposed to comprise PAS, DAP and PKR yet, the state exco has agreed to take orders from a body comprising individuals appointed by PAS.
DAP and PKR politicians in Kedah have been utterly silent throughout the crisis.
Their silence has been read as consent to the arrangement and it makes them look like pawns on a PAS chess board.
“If I were a voter in Kedah I would be upset that the party I voted for has been superceded by people who have no locus standi to act for the state,” said Juhaidi.
Harakahdaily, the PAS party organ, had described the situation as a “Happy ending to Kedah’s mini storm”.
Harakahdaily cannot be faulted for trying to gloss over the party crisis but it was rather too hasty in declaring it a happy ending.
Moreover, the power struggle in Kedah was definitely bigger than a mini storm.
No one is happy — not Azizan or Phahrolrazi and, definitely, not the average Kedahan.
The current scenario shows that the Mentri Besar is no longer in control and the state government is crumbling from within.
Pakatan can forget about winning votes from the civil servants in the next election and it should be very worried about support from the middle ground.
But more trouble lies ahead because a bigger storm is about to break very soon.