KUANTAN, Sept 23 — Pahang’s political bigwigs got keyed up a bit when talk emerged that the Mentri Besar of four states — Pahang, Terengganu, Negri Sembilan and Kedah — will be replaced before the 14th general election (GE14).
An article to this effect was carried by an English-language local daily recently and although it was merely based on speculation, it appears that party members and political observers are now closely watching the actions of the state leaders concerned and paying more attention to their speeches and statements.
While it is the prerogative of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is also Umno President and Barisan Nasional (BN) Chairman, to decide whether or not to replace a Mentri Besar, it is not an unusual practise to change the head of the state government. In fact, it is a perfectly normal process that is carried out for the benefit of the party and rakyat.
Not a new issue
Where Pahang Mentri Besar (MB) Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob, or Abang Long as he is usually referred to, is concerned, this is not the first time rumours have surfaced that he may be removed from office. Similar talk arose on several occasions even before GE13, as well as when the Terengganu MB was replaced in 2014 and more recently too when a new MB was appointed in Kedah.
Adnan, who is known for his distinctive characteristics, comes across as an outspoken and assertive man but there is a soft side to him as well. In fact, it is his caring nature that has stood him in good stead and kept him in the MB’s seat for more than 17 years, while his peers have long since retired and are now busy playing with their grandchildren.
In Pahang, whenever rumour has it that there is going to be a change “up there”, the grass roots are none too pleased, with some even threatening to quit the party, as they are firm supporters of the current MB. But then, there are certain quarters who welcome such rumours as they strongly feel that Pahang needs new blood.
Some are of the view that since Adnan, 66, already holds the record of being the state’s longest-serving MB, he should give way to a younger leader who can inject a breath of fresh air into the state Umno leadership and state government.
Adnan is probably aware of the disgruntlement because at the opening of the Umno Ketereh division meeting recently, he said he would not contest in the coming GE.
This came as a surprise to many because he has previously expressed his desire to go for another term as MB. In fact, he had many a time made his intentions quite clear by quipping: “Well, even the Tok Batin (Orang Asli chieftain) won’t budge from his post, and what’s more me who holds the Mentri Besar post.”
The question is, is this the right time to replace the “captain of the ship”, just as the state Umno and BN is getting their machinery ready to do major battle during GE14?
Should a new captain be appointed, will he be able to navigate his ship properly and sail towards victory?
Political analyst Asso Prof Dr Ahmad Marthada Mohamed feels that the current Pahang MB should be retained until GE14 because as an old-timer, Adnan was well-versed with the roller-coaster nature of the state’s politics.
“We know that Adnan has an aggressive personality and is very forthright. His character has enabled him to last this long and the party needs people like him because if one is too lenient and considerate, others will surely take advantage of him,” the dean of Universiti Utara Malaysia’s College of Law, Government and International Studies told Bernama.
He said in the context of state Umno and BN unity, any change in MB should wait until the next GE was over to avoid the element of sabotage, particularly if the candidate chosen to replace Adnan did not enjoy the full support of the grass roots.
“Just look at what transpired in Kedah during the last GE when (Datuk Seri) Mukhriz Mahathir’s name popped up as the likely candidate for the MB’s post — after that several camps emerged, leading to conflict,” he said. Ahmad Marthada said if at all Adnan’s removal was inevitable, it should be done early so that the new MB has ample time to get the state machinery ready to face GE14.
Time for new MB
Head of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Department of Nationhood and Civilisation Studies Asso Prof Dr Ahmad Tarmizi Talib said many people shared the sentiment that the time was ripe for another person to helm the Pahang government.
“The state is in need of new ideas for development, and so is the state Umno and BN. It needs young blood. People are concerned that if the current leader is allowed to continue (serving as MB), he will run out of ideas and end up doing the same things over and over again,” he said.
Ahmad Tarmizi said in the midst of rumours that GE14 may be held earlier than expected, the replacement has to be effected as soon as possible so that voters have enough time to assess the new MB and give him their support.
“The people will get fed up if there’s no change in the leadership. In fact, Umno is being portrayed as a party that’s rejuvenating itself, hence that’s the direction it should be heading towards,” he said.
Prof Dr Azmi Hassan, a geostrategist at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia’s Institute of Geospatial Science and Perdana School, said if it was true that four incumbent MBs were due to be replaced, then it was clear that the Umno top leadership was going all out to transform the party before GE14. While it was indisputable that such changes may “rock the boat” in terms of party unity, he said there were clear signals from the ground that the people wanted a change.
“Those who have been helming the state government for years should realise this,” he said, adding that changing the MB just before the next GE could turn out to be a risky venture.
“But I’ve noticed that many of the decisions made by our Prime Minister, which have bucked the trend, have led to success because he has his own political clout.
“I expect Adnan to willingly accept whatever comes his way because he is a leader with a big heart. I’m sure he will continue supporting the party machinery and help BN to win in the next election,” he said. — Bernama