Najib meets king, fuelling talk of new Kedah MB

Kedah Umno deputy chief tipped to replace Mukhriz soon as Menteri Besar

KUALA LUMPUR • Speculation about an imminent political change in Kedah intensified yesterday after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, who is also Kedah's Sultan, granted an audience to Prime Minister Najib Razak in the morning.

According to Putrajaya sources, the royal audience could not be the usual pre-Cabinet briefing that Datuk Seri Najib has with the Malaysian King, because there was no Cabinet meeting yesterday.

It is a foregone conclusion that Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir will be removed as Kedah's Menteri Besar (MB), and his replacement is likely to be Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, who is the Kedah Umno deputy chief, The Star reported.

The Malaysian Insider news website, quoting sources, said the rehearsal for the new Menteri Besar oath-taking ceremony started on Tuesday, and that the official event would take place today or tomorrow at the latest.

The outcome of Mr Najib's meeting with the King would be announced later, as royal consent to a change of Menteri Besar, if any, would be validated by an official notification that would be conveyed to the Regency Council in Alor Star.

In other words, the green light for a new Menteri Besar will come from the King, and not the Regency Council. The council, in an extremely rare move, issued a press statement on Tuesday denying any role in the ongoing political crisis.

In the statement, it stressed that it was non-partisan and that its council members were neutral and had not shown any bias, according to The Star.

Mr Mukhriz had his usual meeting with the Regency Council yesterday, before heading back to the Wisma Darulaman shortly before noon for the weekly state executive council (exco) meeting. Only three state exco members turned up - Datuk Aminuddin Omar, Datuk Suraya Yaacob and Datuk Norsabrina Mohd Noor.

Mr Mukhriz said on Tuesday that the political crisis he is facing could be taken as a warning shot to other state chief ministers.

He insisted that he stood with the people of Kedah and would never betray those who have supported him.

The political crisis in the state was triggered last week after 14 Kedah Umno division chiefs called for Mr Mukhriz's removal as Menteri Besar, a move many saw as being orchestrated by Mr Najib's allies.

Mr Mukhriz, the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, has joined his father in strongly criticising Mr Najib's leadership.

"This is Datuk Seri Najib's politics. Whoever criticises him will be ousted, even expelled from Umno," Tun Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Najib meets king, fuelling talk of new Kedah MB'. Print Edition | Subscribe