THE prolonged vacancy of the Penang Deputy Chief Minister (DCM) 1 post shows the pitfalls of Barisan Nasional (BN)-style politics and governance that the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) government there appears to have fallen into, a political analyst said.
The DAP-led state government, helmed by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, should not have to depend on PR adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to decide on what is essentially a public office issue, Khoo Kay Peng said.
Khoo is of the view that it is Lim’s prerogative as head of Penang to appoint another assemblyperson on merit to be the new DCM 1 or even an acting DCM to replace Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin.
“But his hands are tied because the post has been promised to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) under Pakatan Rakyat’s power-sharing agreement. It is not that different from the race-based BN political culture, and this is disappointing,” Khoo told The Nut Graph.
Lim said in a statement in Penang today that although he was disappointed with the delayed announcement, he accepted that Anwar had to face “political pressures” in making a decision.
Lim said even though he had the prerogative as chief minister to appoint a replacement, he believed in consulting and waiting for Anwar to decide after resolving internal PKR matters.
Delay in announcement
Lim was originally to have revealed Fairus’s replacement on 12 April, but delayed the announcement till today at Anwar’s request, only to be asked to postpone it again.
Fairus, the Penanti assemblyperson, was DCM 1 until his resignation, which was effective 8 April. He tendered his resignation letter on 21 March, following allegations of links to illegal quarrying activities. He has since been investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), and may face charges soon.
Fairus was said to be one of Anwar’s protégés and was thus given the DCM 1 post following the March general election last year. There are two other Malay Malaysian PKR assemblypersons that would logically be considered to fill the vacancy — state executive councillor Abdul Malik Abdul Kassim, who holds the Batu Maung seat, and Sungai Bakap assemblyperson Maktar Shapee.
It appears that Anwar’s choice lies between choosing either Abdul Malik or Maktar, or allowing Fairus to vacate the Penanti seat in favour of a by-election in Penanti with the candidate becoming DCM 1 if PR wins.
When Fairus’s resignation took effect, Anwar had said he would remain the Penanti assemblyperson until the next general election. But that looks set to change, especially if the MACC presses charges and he is convicted.
Consider issues separately
Khoo says the Penanti by-election and selection of a new DCM 1 should be considered separately for the sake of the state’s administration.
“Pakatan needs to move quickly into governing especially at a time of economic crisis like this. This involves a public position, and it is irresponsible leadership to say that the post will be left vacant until Anwar solves his party’s internal problems,” says Khoo.
Fairus had also held important exco portfolios such as entrepreneur and cooperative development, information and community relations. However, he has been deemed a non-performer and Anwar was once said to have ticked him off for not visiting his constituency.
PKR and state leaders, however, say there is no urgency in finding Fairus’s replacement as the state continues to be run well.
“I don’t think the delay in filing the appointment will affect the administration of Penang. The state is being administered well, Anwar is fully aware of the situation, and PKR does not want to be given ultimatums on when to decide,” said PKR deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali said when contacted.
Penang DCM 2 Prof Dr P Ramasamy, from the DAP, said Anwar’s consultation process with his own party should be allowed to take place.
“Anwar and Guan Eng also consult one another on this. We are Pakatan Rakyat, we do things on the basis of consultation. Yes, we need to fill up this post but if this happened in the BN, there would also be delays as political parties need to be consulted. We are not worried about the state, because Anwar will announce [his decision] soon,” Ramasamy said.
Of the 40 seats in the Penang state assembly, DAP holds 19 seats, PKR nine, and PAS one. The remaining 11 are held by Umno.