Umno risks Dr M’s intervention in Perlis impasse

Zainal Epi
Umno and Barisan Nasional came away with just Perlis, Pahang and Sarawak, the first of which remains leaderless as the Raja Perlis has yet to appoint a mentri besar. — Picture by Ham Abu Bakar

PETALING JAYA, May 23 — Umno’s inability to resolve its deadlock over the Perlis mentri besar’s post could open its hold of the state — just one of three it retained after the 14th general election — to the intervention of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Following the unprecedented May 9 poll, Umno and Barisan Nasional came away with just Perlis, Pahang and Sarawak, the first of which remains leaderless as the Raja Perlis has yet to appoint a mentri besar.

This is despite BN securing 10 of the 15 state seats, giving it a two-thirds majority to form the state government; Pakatan Harapan (PH) won three state seats while PAS won two.

With the stalemate now into its second week, the Raja Perlis may seek guidance from the prime minister on how to resolve the crisis, which would take initiative in the deadlock out of Umno’s hands.

Perlis is dependent on federal aid as it lacks the revenue to fully fund public services and workers in the state, much less development.

State Umno liaison chief Tan Sri Shahidan Kassim has proposed his brother, Tambun Tulang assemblyman Ismail Kassim as the new mentri besar, but the Raja Perlis has yet to make any decision on the matter.

Former mentri besar Datuk Azlan Man who won the Bintong state seat is also expecting to be called to fill the post.

Tussles for the post of Perlis MB are not new. In 2013, Ismail’s supporters had urged the Raja Perlis to swear him in as MN, but the prime minister then, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, chose Azlan.

Azlan is said to be the compromise candidate in the power play between another former MB, Datuk Seri Radzi Shiekh Ahmad, and Shahidan.

This time, the tussle is between Shahidan and state Umno members as Radzi has left the party.

The deadlock is expected to drag on given that Umno has no leader who can defuse the situation as the state’s three divisions are notoriously wilful and only obedient to the party president.

Acting Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and acting deputy president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein both met the Raja Perlis on Tuesday, but according for some state Umno committee members, neither shared the outcome of the meeting.

Their interpretation is that no agreement was reached, at least none that could provide any clarity.

Former Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak also quit the post before resolving the selection of the state’s MB.

Unless Umno resolves the matter soon, Dr Mahathir is likely to step in on the grounds that his administration must ensure the wellbeing of Perlis residents, the majority of whom are Malay and known to be poor.

Such an intervention could sound the death-knell for Umno, as it would suggest that neither Zahid nor Hishammuddin have the clout needed to rein in the Umno warlords who are thought to be nearing revolt over their party’s humiliating general election defeat.

Seeing Dr Mahathir’s hand steady Perlis, which neighbours his home state of Kedah, could also prompt more Umno members to abandon ship for his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

However, an invitation was sent out today for the swearing-in of the next Perlis MB tomorrow.