Pahang, living on the edge

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 08 May 2019

PAHANG is one of the two states still held by Barisan Nasional after the 14th General Election, with Perlis being the other.

However, it victory was thin: Barisan lost its two-thirds majority in the 42-seat state assembly, holding on to only 25 seats.

Pakatan Harapan won nine seats, but the biggest winner was PAS, which made the largest gain by clinching eight seats, up from the two it held previously.

Barisan's dismal performance resulted in a changing of the guard. Out went Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, the four-term mentri besar and state Umno strongman, and in came Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail.

The appointment of Wan Rosdi, the Jelai assemblyman, as Mentri Besar came as a surprise since Adnan was widely expected to resume his duties for another term.

For Wan Rosdy, who had previously served as the state Housing and Municipality Committee chairman, his ascension to the state helm came at the worst possible time, however.

Being in opposition to the Federal Government, there was very little help he could expect from Putrajaya. The Pahang Mentri Besar is on his own as far as the Federal Government is concerned, and chief among the state's concerns is its RM3.2bil in federal debt.

Wan Rosdy bristled at Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng's remarks that the Pahang government could not develop the state, seeing that it had the highest debt in the country.

The Mentri Besar's solution was to flip the debt by demanding RM17.1bil in compensation from the Federal Government for the nearly one million hectares of forest and wildlife reserves in the state that were being used as water catchment areas.

Unrealistic it might be, but the RM17.1bil demand could potentially bring the Federal Government to the negotiation table.

While Wan Rosdy's administration attempted to make changes, there seems to be little interest in instituting large-scale reforms.

The Umno leadership is not only seen as lethargic, but also quickly fell back to old habits and the same arrogance which cost them the election.

Recently at the state assembly, Kemayan assemblyman Datuk Mohd Fadil Osman uttered the word “pendatang” in questioning allocations for vernacular schools.

Although he later said he was referring to a news portal article that specifically quoted Prof Teo Kok Seong as the one saying that additional allocation for Chinese vernacular schools was an obstacle to unity, his statement still drew condemnation from fellow Barisan assemblyman Lee Ah Wong.

The Cheka assemblyman pointed out that MCA had to suffer the consequences of such statements, and it was one of the main reasons the Barisan component party suffered its worst election defeat.

“As long as Umno does not change its mindset and continues to ignore the feelings of other races and the unity of the community, it will never gain the support of the majority and return to power,” Lee said.

Another challenge Wan Rosdy had to face was the unusual “probation” period set by Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.

The Pahang Ruler had imposed a two-year limited tenure on Wan Rosdy and members of the state executive council.

Wan Rosdy himself was not clear about the reason behind the probation, but said he would do his job to the best of his ability during his term.

Al-Sultan Abdullah explained that the two-year term was a period to review the performance of the new Mentri Besar and exco.

“Insya-Allah (God willing),” he said when asked whether he would personally review their performance at the end of the term.

That is about a year away, and for most people in Pahang, life goes on with the same issues of deforestation, water supply problems and bread and butter concerns.

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