Sunday, March 16, 2008

PERLIS MB SAGA: Shahidan's last ditch attempt to save job fails

PERLIS MB SAGA: Shahidan's last ditch attempt to save job fails
By Deborah Loh in PUTRAJAYA and Ahmad Fairuz Othman in KANGAR
16 March, 2008

Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim made a failed last-ditch attempt today to secure the Perlis Mentri Besar post by meeting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the PM's office but he was too late: it is learnt that Abdullah had already met the Raja of Perlis Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail where they reached a consensus that Datuk Dr Md Isa Sabu, who is the Ruler's choice, would be maintained as Mentri Besar. Dr Isa is expected to be sworn in as the new Mentri Besar of Perlis tomorrow. Shahidan met Abdullah at 12.40pm and left at 2.40pm. The normally press-friendly Shahidan did not stop to talk to reporters after the meeting.

He looked down and raised his hand to shield his face from the cameras as he was driven out in his black BMW 7-series. His car sped off when reporters approached it, followed by several other vehicles bearing Perlis and Kedah license plates belonging to some of his supporters.

Earlier in the morning, Shahidan had gone to Abdullah’s official residence at Seri Perdana but the meeting was later held at the prime ministers office.

The Raja of Perlis finalised the appointment after he met Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday. It is understood that the meeting was arranged after maghrib prayers at Istana Siraj, near Jalan Ampang.

Shahidan was fighting not just Isa but also nine other assemblymen who have lost confidence in Shahidan’s leadership, and were instrumental in persuading the Raja of Perlis to consent to Dr Isa as the new MB.

The 10 assemblymen, including Isa, were told by the Abdullah in a meeting yesterday that he will resolve the impasse with the Raja of Perlis. The impasse is because former Mentri Besar Shahidan was given a letter of mandate by Abdullah to continue in the post and he is protesting Isa's appointment, with the prime minister standing by his choice.

The others in the Isa group are Yip Sun Onn (Titi Tinggi), Sabry Ahmad (Santan), Dr Por Choo Chor (Indera Kayangan), Abdul Jamil Saad (Sena), Ahmad Bakri Ali (Kayang), Mat Hassan (Kuala Perlis) and Datuk Seri Syed Radzlan Putra Jamalullail (Pauh). The group also had the support of Pas assemblyman for Simpang Empat, Rus'sele Eizan.

Those backing Shahidan, who won the Tambun Tulang seat in the March 8 general election, are Abdullah Hassan (Sanglang), Khairi Hassan (Mata Ayer), Mansor Jusoh (Chuping) and Jafperi Othman (Guar Sanji).

The Raja of Perlis had invoked Article 39 (2) of the Laws of the Constitution of Perlis, which states that the ruler shall appoint a person he thinks has the confidence of the majority of the state assembly to become the Mentri besar. Opinion in Perlis seems to be veering in favour of Isa.

Meanwhile, State BN leaders have anticipated a break in the deadlock and are ready to move on and start working, Padang Besar Umno division vice-chief Azizan Sulaiman said.

He hoped the impasse over the Mentri Besar’s post would end with the appointment of Md Isa. “I will wait until the swearing-in ceremony before commenting on anything. But whoever is appointed, the division would give its undivided support to him.”

Azizan admitted the decision by the Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Putra Jamalullail, had caught Umno grassroots members by surprise but the uncertainty would eventually fizzle out.

Most Umno members were initially in disbelief as they were sure Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, in his capacity as state BN chief, would be made Mentri Besar. “It has been confusing for all of us,” Azizan said. The Umno grassroots in Perlis had been left in the dark over the past few days. It is disappointing that we could not contact our assemblymen in Kuala Lumpur. We couldn’t get them on the phone in the past few days.”

Azizan is optimistic the party would close ranks and stand united behind Md Isa.

© Copyright 2008 The New Straits Times Press (M) Berhad. All rights reserved.

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