ALOR SETAR, Malaysia- Kedah Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir is facing the battle of his life as all but one of the state's 15 Umno division leaders have turned against him.
With grim and resolute faces, the 14 division leaders gathered yesterday to deliver a joint statement saying that they had lost confidence in Mukhriz as the state party chief and Mentri Besar.
Deputy state chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, who is likely to take over if Mukhriz is ousted, read out the one-page statement. The state Wanita and youth leadership were also in the room.
Only the Jerlun division, where Mukhriz is chief, was not represented at the Grand Alora Hotel where over 150 Umno leaders and their supporters gathered at 3pm yesterday for a closed-door meeting.
Urging Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to change the state leadership, Ahmad Bashah listed four reasons.
"He (Mukhriz) failed to unite the state leadership and party machinery at all levels; there is no strategic plan for the party ahead of the next general election; he has failed to take the lead and activate the party leadership after taking over; and as Mentri Besar, he has not managed the state well," he said.
Among the bigwigs present were Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom (Jerai MP), Najib's political secretary Datuk Paduka Ghazali Ibrahim (Terap MP), Kubang Pasu MP Datuk Mohd Johari Bahrom and Baling MP Datuk Seri Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim.
The Mentri Besar's political secretary Datuk Azimi Daim was there but only to observe the situation.
Ahmad Bashah, who is Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism deputy minister, and all the others would not answer questions from the press. Mukhriz, when met at another function in the afternoon, was equally tight-lipped.
However, he issued a statement last night, saying that the public should be the one to judge his accomplishments.
"My post as Mentri Besar is based on the mandate and trust given by the rakyat and also on the consent of His Highness on the proposal of the Prime Minister," he said.
Mukhriz added that he held the mandate to serve the people as best he could.
At about 9pm, a large crowd turned up at the Bangunan Tunku building, which houses the Umno headquarters in Kedah, to show their support for him.
Mukhriz himself arrived at the rally at around 9.30pm.
The rebellion yesterday came just about a month after Mukhriz hit out at the national party leadership.
At a dinner on Dec 11, Mukhriz said that denying the party deputy president and vice-president the right to speak at the Umno general assembly was against the party's inclusive policy.
It was seen as the first time Mukhriz had publicly broken his silence and defended deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal.
His father, former prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad, has been on the warpath against Najib.
Signs of dissatisfaction became evident last April when Bukit Lada assemblyman Datuk Ahmad Lebai Sudin openly challenged Mukhriz to resign as MB if he could not declare his loyalty to Najib.
Two days later, the Kedah Wanita Umno, Youth and Puteri wings called a press conference to declare their support for Mukhriz as Mentri Besar and Najib as Prime Minister.
A few Barisan Nasional state leaders expressed surprise over the open revolt.
"I did not expect this. But since all the division leaders have made a request to Najib, we will wait for him to make a decision.
"We see this as an Umno matter," said deputy state MCA chairman Datuk Dr Leong Yong Kong, who is also Gurun assemblyman.
Gerakan state chairman Datuk Dr Cheah Soon Hai hoped the row would not affect development in the state.
"We hope this internal problem will be settled soon," he said.