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Feb 23, 2008


Little state, big drama

PETALING JAYA: From Putrajaya to Kangar, it was drama all the way.

There were emotional outbursts and gripping suspense as speculation intensified since Tuesday on the positions of Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim as mentri besar and two Cabinet ministers from Perlis, Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid and Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, who have publicly quarrelled on who should lead the state.

It seemed to have ended yesterday morning when Shahidan met Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. The Tambun Tulang state assemblyman got to keep his seat.

As for the two ministers, according to sources, they will be fielded in their parliamentary seats again.

Shahidan is expected to announce the full list today where “plenty” of new faces will contest for state seats, according to the mentri besar’s aides.

Azmi, who is Environment and Natural Resources Minister, when contacted, said “expect surprises” when the list is announced.

It was almost a repeat of the 2004 general election when Shahidan was speculated to have been dropped from the list. By admission, Shahidan then said he spent long hours outside the Prime Minister’s office and talking to Abdullah in the plane on the way to Perlis and in car rides with him and it paid off.

shahidan kassim and perlis and umno and bn 220208This time, tension was high over in the administrative capital in Putrajaya and in Perlis as speculation again went wild on who was in and who was out.

Five thousand people turned up at the mentri besar’s official residence in Kangar on Thursday when word got around that Shahidan would not be fielded.

Yesterday, some supporters could not contain their emotions and started tearing Barisan Nasional flags and posters of the Prime Minister were sprayed red. Several tendered resignation letters as division committee members.

Shahidan, who has been camping in Putrajaya since Tuesday, was seen going in and out of the Putra Perdana complex, where the office of the Prime Minister is located, at least seven times.

He only managed to meet Abdullah and his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, over dinner on Thursday night and finally managed to get the nod on the list from Abdullah after two meetings yesterday.

Barely hours later at the Putra Mosque, just a few hundred metres from the Prime Minister’s office, Shahidan and Radzi, who is Umno secretary-general and Home Minister, were seen walking out of the mosque together after Friday prayers.

Both looked serious and after talking to each other for a short while, Radzi departed and Shahidan turned to the photographers and declared in a serious tone: “Why are you guys worried? I am still the MB of Perlis.”

Just then, Abdullah walked out from the mosque and Shahidan greeted him before leaving the area.

As the Prime Minister was leaving, Azmi was seen approaching Abdullah and passing some papers to him that he glanced through quickly before getting into the car.

Shahidan, when contacted, said he would ask those who have resigned to withdraw their letters.

“I respect their emotions. They have worked very hard for the party, and they have the right to resign and no one can stop them.”

Some 65 Umno committee members mainly from the Arau division had submitted their resignation letters to Shahidan, the party president and secretary-general after hearing speculation that Shahidan would not contest in a state seat, eliminating any prospect of him being made the mentri besar.

Shahidan conceded this was the toughest election he had ever faced but he wanted to let bygones be bygones.

“I have to ensure the election machinery is once again in place. Their resignations have turned the situation in the state chaotic.

“They have always been there for me, they have always helped me. They are my true friends, and I know they love me,” he added.

Shahidan said he was informed that about 1,000 Barisan flags were removed, adding that he needed to get things back in order.


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