Coup attempt in Perak is not over

  • Analysis
  • Saturday, 01 Dec 2018

Ahmad Faizal Azumu. -filepic

PERAK Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu (pic) is either a very good actor or he has nerves of steel.

He has been his usual chirpy and upbeat self throughout the state assembly sitting despite intense speculation of a plot to unseat him as MB.

Such things would have given most politicians sleepless nights, but Ahmad Faizal seems to have taken it in his stride.

He has been wearing his biggest smile since the assembly sitting began on Tuesday. He described the government bench as “one big, happy family”, held a press conference with personalities seen as part of the plot and ordered pizza for the media at the event.

There is no doubt that he has some acting skills because his cameo role in a soon-to-be released Malay movie has been the talk of the town. He plays a religious figure in the movie about a boy who runs away from home to take a plane to perform the Haj.

Rumours of a possible vote of no confidence against him began flying several days before the assembly sitting began last Tuesday.

It did not happen but Ahmad Faizal, who is widely known by his nickname Peja, is not out of the danger zone yet because the sitting only ends this Tuesday. There is still time for the knives to come out.

What did Ahmad Faizal do wrong to cause this mutiny?

The popular opinion is that he had trouble from day one because there was resentment that he was made MB although he was the sole member of Bersatu to win a state seat.

He won the Chenderiang state seat by only 39 votes and is often described as the “Lone Ranger MB”.

However, he is also a giant killer because he defeated Datuk Seri Husni Hanadzlah for the Tambun parliamentary seat.

But the real trouble started when he refused to go along with everything that his exco members wanted.

For instance, the DAP manifesto had promised to convert Chinese new village land to freehold status but Ahmad Faizal refused to go along with that. That has been a big thorn in his side given that DAP, with 18 assemblymen, is a powerful force in Perak.

One thing led to another and his detractors have resorted to nit-picking, complaining that he is too relaxed, spends too much time in Kuala Lumpur where his family lives and even questioning his academic credentials.

The interesting thing is that both Pakatan Harapan and the Barisan Nasional opposition are now accusing each other for the plot to replace Ahmad Faizal.

Pakatan claimed that the opposition, which comprises entirely of Umno assemblymen, is up to its old tricks to form a “backdoor government” like what happened after the 2008 general election.

But opposition leader Datuk Saarani Mohamad has flatly denied it.

“We want to be a good opposition, strengthen Umno and prepare for the next general election,” said Saarani, who is Kota Tampan assemblyman.

In fact, Saarani was the first to be approached by a messenger sent by a state exco member from Amanah, asking him to support the vote of no confidence against the MB.

According to the Umno side, there have been a total of five attempts to get Umno’s support. One of the meetings took place quite openly at an Old Town White Coffee outlet in Ipoh.

One of those who made contact with the Umno side also involved a state exco member from DAP. Naturally, all the Umno assemblymen who were approached reported everything to Saarani.

It looks like Ahmad Faizal’s state exco comprises of people patting him with one hand and holding a knife in the other hand.

However, any attempt at a no-confidence vote by the Pakatan group is doomed to fail because they do not have the numbers.

Perak, which has 59 state seats, was a hung assembly with Pakatan winning 29 seats while Barisan won 27 and PAS won three.

Pakatan had to entice two Umno assemblymen over to its side or else it would not have been able to even appoint a state assembly speaker.

The two cross-overs are Datuk Nolee Ashilin Mohd Radzi, who is Ahmad Faizal’s sister-in-law (his wife’s younger sister) and the other is Zainol Fadzi Paharudin who is now an adviser to the Mentri Besar.

In the event of an attempted vote of no confidence, Pakatan would get only 27 votes because the MB and his two Umno allies will not support the vote.

Umno and PAS, who have a total of 30 assemblymen, have declared that they want no part in the plot.

Those behind the plot would die standing and may even spark off the need for a snap state election.

Pakatan’s state chief Nga Kor Ming has denied any such plot and a police report has been lodged against Umno.

But the opinion out is that Pakatan would not dare to go this far without the blessings of the rich and powerful Perak DAP cousins.

Nga and his elder cousin Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham are at the political pinnacle. Their team swept the recent Perak DAP election, putting them in total control of the party in the state.

But the icing on the cake is that the younger cousin is the Dewan Rakyat deputy speaker while the elder cousin is the Perak assembly speaker. Could life be any sweeter?

Saarani is a skilled and lively orator and he has settled well into his role as opposition leader. He is unfazed by the police reports lodged against his party and he has threatened to expose those who approached his colleagues for support against the MB.

“Don’t challenge me or else I will name everyone of you. The MB already knows who they are. Even at the state assembly, I could see their faces pleading please, please, don’t name me,” said Saarani.

Saarani has hinted that he may do that soon, possibly as a finale to the state assembly sitting. That would be a mouth-watering moment.

It is easier to fight an enemy on the other side of the fence than to tackle an enemy from within and the big question is how long Ahmad Faizal can go on like this.

Besides, Pakatan is not short of candidates to replace Ahmad Faizal.

They include former academic Dr Abdul Aziz Bari of DAP and Amanah’s Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin, who was a former MB, and lawyer Asmuni Awie.

All three are more than qualified for the top job but as the Malays say, “bukan rezeki mereka”, a sort of catch-all phrase to mean that it is not their time.

Ahmad Faizal, on the other hand, is said to have good relations with the palace and is a longtime friend of Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir.

More important, he is a moderate Malay who is acceptable to both Malays and non-Malays in Perak.

A Perak-based journalist had the most astute answer to Ahmad Faizal’s survival: “He is safe for as long as his party boss (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) is the Prime Minister.”

Nevertheless, everyone will be closely watching the Perak assembly sitting next week to see whether it will end as one big, happy family or a broken family.

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