ALOR SETAR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Umno leaders of Malaysia's northern state of Kedah say they have lost confidence in Chief Minister Mukhriz Mahathir.
Reading from a press statement, state Umno deputy chairman Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah Ahmad Shah, along with party division leaders, appealed to Prime Minister Najib Razak to make an immediate change to the state leadership.
"The entire Kedah Umno leadership and elected representatives have gathered to declare that we have lost our trust and confidence in the leadership of Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as Kedah Umno chief as well as Kedah Mentri Besar," said Datuk Ahmad Bashah at a press conference at the Grand Alora Hotel on Wednesday (Jan 20).
The statement explained that this loss of trust was due to a number of reasons, including Datuk Seri Mukhriz's alleged inability to unite the party leadership and machinery at all levels in the state.
"There was not any strategic planning for the party in facing the 14th General Election.
"As the Mentri Besar of Kedah, he also failed to effectively manage the state government.
"For these reasons we have gathered to appeal to the Prime Minister to change the Kedah Mentri Besar and the Kedah liaison chief," said Mr Ahmad Bashah.
He did not take questions from the press.
Mr Mukhriz has been Kedah's Mentri Besar since 2013.
He is the son of former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad.
There is no personal agenda in the call, said Education Minister and Padang Terap MP Mahdzir Khalid, who was not at the press conference earlier on Wednesday. He told Bernama that the announcement had the consensus of all the state Umno assemblymen and MPs.
"There is no personal agenda except for the desire to strengthen the state Umno," he said.
Datuk Seri Mahdzir added that he was of the view that Datuk Seri Najib should resolve the matter immediately for the good of the party.
Also present at the press conference were Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Rahim, Jerai MP Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Kubang Pasu MP Datuk Johari Baharom.
Datuk Ghazali Ibrahim represented Padang Terap MP Mahdzir Khalid as the latter is currently in London.
Also present were Kedah Umno youth chief Datuk Shaiful Azizy Zainal Abidin, Kedah Umno Wanita chief Datuk Maznah Abd Hamid and Kedah Umno Puteri chief Datin Norashimah Md Nowar.
When seen at another function, Mr Mukhriz declined to comment.
On Wednesday night, a large crowd turned up to show their support for Mr Mukhriz at the Bangunan Tunku building, which houses the Umno headquarters in Kedah.
As of 9pm, the crowd assembled outside the building while chanting and displaying banners backing Mr Mukhriz.
Mr Mukhriz himself arrived at the rally at around 9.30pm.
Among his supporters was retired consultant Amunuddin Azizan, 58 who felt that Mr Mukhriz should stay on uninterrupted.
"I've voted in the general election four times here, and I've seen a lot.
"I'm not even an Umno member but I feel that Mukhriz is doing good for the people as he cares for people of all ages and status.
"I believe there is an agenda to oust Mukhriz."
Office clerk Lee Hsueh Yi, 22, also turned up after getting to know about the gathering on social media.
"Mukhriz is someone to be respected as it's not easy to find a leader that respects the elders and mingles with the younger generations.
"He has brought much development to the state and I wish that he will continue," she said.
Pokok Sena MP Mahfuz Omar has slammed Kedah Umno for choosing the wrong time to announce that they had lost confidence in Mr Mukhriz.
The Parti Islam SeMalaysia lawmaker said the actions of the Umno leaders, MPs, and state assemblymen were rude and disrespectful as Kedah was in the midst of celebrating the birthday of its Sultan Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah.
"I do not intend to deny them their right to do so. However, it is disrespectful and rude for them to take such an action at a time when Kedah is celebrating the 88th birthday of our Sultan, who is also the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
"Their actions have disrupted and spoilt the festivities of the Sultan's birthday celebrations and have changed the atmosphere from one of joy to anxiety among the rakyat over the state of political upheaval in Kedah," Datuk Mahfuz said in a statement on Wednesday.
Kedah Umno liaison deputy chief Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah had led the state Umno earlier today in announcing that they had lost confidence in Mukhriz over a number of reasons.
The group, which included Baling MP Datuk Abdul Azeez Rahim and Jerai MP and Cabinet Minister Jamil Khir Baharom, as well as Kubang Pasu MP Datuk Johari Baharom, had called on the Prime Minister to make an immediate change to the state's leadership.
Mr Mahfuz said the Umno leaders should have waited until the celebrations were over, as a show of respect to the Sultan.
He added that their actions showed that none of the present Umno assemblymen were qualified to become the next Mentri Besar.
"It is unfair to trigger the issue of no confidence when the Sultan's birthday message had accepted the loyalty of Mukhriz as the MB representing the state government and the people. Umno's actions are an insult to Tuanku Sultan."