BN’s other Perak dilemma: what to do with the three ‘frogs’?
THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
MAY 18 – Just what should Barisan Nasional do with Messrs Hee, Osman and Jamaluddin? This question is increasingly being debated and discussed among top Umno/Barisan Nasional officials as the Perak power grab continues to dominate the headlines in Malaysia, much to the chagrin of the Najib administration.
BN officials say that as it stands today, the thinking is still to allow the courts to decide whether Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir or Datuk Seri Nizar Jamaluddin is the rightful Mentri Besar of Perak, and then move a motion of no-confidence against the popular PAS politician, and continue ruling Perak.
But if the public sentiment in the state remains toxic even after the court ruling and if the Sultan of Perak comes under sustained pressure from the Opposition, public and civil society and dissolves the state legislature, the nascent political careers of Hee Yit Foong (Jelapang), Osman Jailu (Changkat Jering) and Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang) could come to a abrupt end.
The Malaysian Insider has learnt that senior BN officials believe that one way out of the Perak quagmire is to persuade the three Pakatan Rakyat defectors to vacate their seats and contest by-elections in Jelapang, Changkat Jering and Behrang.
The winner will have a clear majority in the state assembly and will be able to form the state government. In addition, the move to have by-elections in the three constituencies may assuage Perakians who feel that they should have the last say in the government which represents them as well as dissipate some of the anger being directed at Sultan Azlan Shah for refusing Nizar’s request to dissolve the state assembly in February.
Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and several other senior BN leaders have been briefed of this “limited election” option but there is some opposition against taking this route.
A senior party official, familiar with discussions told The Malaysian Insider: “there is a view that if BN sacrifices the three representatives, then no lawmaker will ever think of defecting and joining the BN in future. We are confident that we can win in Changkat Jering and Behrang because Malay voters are with us but the perception of forcing the three to retire may not be good for BN.”
But he concedes that if the Sultan decides to dissolve the state assembly and calls for state elections, BN is going to face a dilemma over fielding Hee, Osman and Jamaluddin as BN candidates in their constituencies.
The defectors could face a severe backlash from voters who believe that the trio changed their political colours out of self-interest and not due to ideological differences with the DAP or PKR.
Fielding Osman and Jamaluddin could prove tricky as both lawmakers have been charged in court with corruption. Jamaluddin won the Behrang seat on March 8, 2008 with a 1,027 majority, Osman the Changkat Jering seat by a 1,102 majority.
Yet, dropping the three will be viewed as capitulation and acceptance of the Pakatan Rakyat position that the defection was illegal and unconstitutional.
The senior party official said: “as it stands today, the BN position is that we will go for a vote of no-confidence. Any elections, even a limited one, could be complicated.”
A key complication: what to do with Messrs Hee, Osman and Jamaluddin?