Opposition MPs summoned to Kedah palace over Mukhriz

ALOR SETAR • The Kedah palace, which is playing a key role in deciding the future of the state's Menteri Besar Mukhriz Mahathir, has summoned all opposition assemblymen to a meeting today, with no decision yesterday on replacing him.

The surprising turn of events, as reported by The Malaysian Insider news website, came a day after the Kedah Regency Council met 21 Barisan Nasional (BN) state lawmakers yesterday.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has decided to remove Mr Mukhriz, the youngest son and political heir to ex-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Datuk Seri Najib has submitted at least one name to the royal Kedah Regency Council as Mr Mukhriz's replacement.

This came about after the majority of Umno divisions chiefs in the northern state revolted against Mr Mukhriz. They cited his weak leadership that had stalled the state's economy.

Kedah, Malaysia's biggest rice-planting state, is mainly known in the country for its Langkawi tourist island and industrial output from Sungai Petani and Kulim towns.

The plan to topple Mr Mukhriz is also seen as retribution by Mr Najib as the Kedah Menteri Besar has all along been supporting his father, Tun Dr Mahathir, a harsh critic of the Prime Minister.

Replacing Mr Mukhriz would strengthen Mr Najib's hold on Umno, and serves as a warning to other potential party rebels.

Mr Najib last July sacked deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin for repeatedly questioning him on the scandal involving state fund 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

The leader of the Kedah Umno revolt, Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanapiah, told reporters yesterday that "no decision has been made yet" after the three-hour meeting with the council.

The Kedah Regency Council consists of the two brothers of Sultan Abdul Halim Sultan Badlishah and his daughter.

Sultan Abdul Halim is not involved in the tussle as he is serving as the country's King, under Malaysia's unique five-year rotation as the titular head of the country among the nine royal Malay houses.

The move to oust Mr Mukhriz is being complicated by his decision not to resign despite being told by Umno, and by the weak hold of BN in the Kedah assembly.

The state assembly has 36 seats, meaning at least 19 votes against Mr Mukhriz are needed to oust him.

Though BN has 21 seats, several lawmakers are seen as not keen to have the genial politician replaced, observers say, thus forcing the Regency Council to call up the 15 opposition lawmakers.

An opposition assemblyman, Mr Simon Ooi Tze Min, confirmed that the 15 have been called for a meeting with the Regency Council.

But he said the opposition has not decided either whether Mr Mukhriz should go, he told The Malaysian Insider.

"We have not decided. If we have reached a stand on this matter, maybe it would be announced after the meeting," he was quoted as saying.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 02, 2016, with the headline 'Opposition MPs summoned to Kedah palace over Mukhriz'. Print Edition | Subscribe