March 6, 2012
Ustaz Dato Seri Azizan Abdul Razak: Kedah’s Lame Duck Menteri Besar
CALL it a curse, a jinx or plain hard luck, but there’s something about the Kedah Menteri Besar’s seat that’s quite bizarre. And PAS MB Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak is prone to becoming the sixth straight victim of this phenomenon in under 25 years.
He is now a lame duck menteri besar, as far as everyone is concerned, following decisions by the PAS central committee over the weekend that are seen to have clipped his wings.
When his head finally rolls, perhaps after the general election or even before that, Kedah will see the emergence of its seventh head of government in that relatively short spell, practically all of them either ousted, defeated or controversially replaced. Compare that with Kelantan and Sarawak, which have known and seen nobody else at the helm but their one and only in more than two decades.
Sabah tops this “numbers list”, of course, but that is due to the rotation system of chief ministers adopted by Barisan Nasional in the state for almost 20 years from the mid-1990s.
Selangor appears jinxed as well, but only slightly and with different peculiarities, as there is that tendency of its menteris besar, as history has shown, to either be embroiled in a scandal or end up in court.
The imbroglio in Kedah proves that this jinx is very much alive. Party-blind as well, since the casualties are not limited to UMNO and BN, but also PAS and its Pakatan Rakyat allies in the present case.
Azizan, who was sworn in after Pakatan captured the Kedah government in the 2008 general election, appears to be in quicksand as he faces an uprising in his ranks led by executive councillors he had appointed.
An unkindest cut he would reckon, but not dissimilar to the indignity that had befallen most of his predecessors, the immediate past being Datuk Seri Mahadzir Khalid, who held the ignominy of leading a BN side that was vanquished exactly four years ago, the first time the coalition had lost the state.
Mahadzir himself took over the reins under touchy circumstances in mid-term from Datuk Seri Syed Razak Syed Zain in July 2005. It was a script that was to become familiar: Syed Razak was being isolated by his own men, but the official reason for the changeover was that he was “unwell”.
It would seem that life had come full circle when all this happened because six years earlier, in December 1999, Syed Razak took over from a similarly beleaguered Tan Sri Sanusi Junid who was feeling the heat from his own ranks after BN had lost ground to Pas in the general election that year.
The truth was, everyone knew Sanusi was going through a rough patch running the state. And when he finally announced that he was not continuing as menteri besar, he described the move as a “tactical retreat”.
It was an ironic twist, considering that Sanusi had taken over from Tan Sri Osman Aroff following an intrigue that started when Sanusi, then a federal minister, was picked to contest the Langkawi state seat in the 1995 election, sparking speculation that he might replace Osman.
The plot thickened after that, and in the heat of rumours and gossip, 22 assemblymen on March 22, 1996, took the unprecedented step of handing over a memorandum to then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, urging him to retain Osman as menteri besar.But Osman caved in under pressure and resigned six weeks later to pave the way for Sanusi to take over.
Most strangely, a similar state of uncertainty prevailed in 1984, just before Osman assumed the stewardship.Syed Nahar Shahabuddin, his predecessor, was the one bearing being undermined then as camps were formed in the ranks.
Matters came to a head when a video recording of him having fun at a Mexican-style party was widely distributed.In that footage, Syed Nahar was portrayed as Montoya del Monte frolicking at the party hosted by the Kedah Shooting Association.
Some said the tape had been doctored. But the damage was done. The video became ammunition for PAS and UMNO in the attacks on him.Syed Nahar, who was said to be more comfortable as a corporate figure than a politician, resigned in January 1985.
I first wrote about this Kedah menteri besar phenomenon six years ago, suggesting that it could possibly be a curse of sorts.The current power grab has more or less strengthened another myth that I had also mentioned: that a non-Syed cannot become an MB peacefully.
Four of the seven previous MBs, were Syeds: Syed Omar Shahabuddin (1959 to 1967), Syed Ahmad Shahabuddin (1967 to 1978), Syed Nahar (1978 to 1985) and Syed Razak (1999 to 2005). But I must add that I have no vested interest in saying this, although I was born in Kedah.