Outgoing Kedah chief was his usual self as drama played out

ALOR SETAR - Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir looked his usual self as he strode into one of the rooms on the sixth floor of the state government complex, Wisma Darul Aman, to announce his resignation before the throng of media personnel.

Walking in with some 30 supporĀ­ters at 10.15am, he took his seat before opening a bright red velvet-lined folder containing his one-and-a-half-page statement in Bahasa Malaysia and proceeded to read it without a break in his voice.

The five-minute speech ended with: "And so I decide to let go of the post of Mentri Besar Kedah Darul Aman with immediate effect."

A pause followed before he moved on to his oaths of allegiance to the King, Tunku Temenggong, Regency Council and the people of Kedah.

Throughout the 20-minute event, the Jerlun assemblyman displayed no sign of angst or fatigue.

He even beamed his characteristically broad smile when asked to pose for the photographers.

When asked about his biggest regret as mentri besar, Mukhriz replied: "Frankly, I wish I had more time."

There was not a hint of remorse or sadness on his face.

Another reporter asked what his father Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad thought of his resignation.

Mukhriz said he had not told him but hoped he would support it.

"Even if he doesn't, it will be difficult to turn back," he grinned.

Incoming MB confident peace will reign

Mentri besar-designate Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah is confident that peace will now reign in Kedah Umno.

Ahmad Bashah, who will be sworn in today, said Umno members would unite for the state.

"I am certain all will be well now. We have changed the mentri besar a few times but we are still united," Ahmad Bashah said.

Looking tired when met at the Kedah Umno headquarters, he said he believed that those who had supported Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir before he resigned yesterday would also return.

"The party will not leave anyone behind. We will welcome those who had objected to the change when they return. I am sure even Mukhriz will return," he said.

He recounted the time when 22 assemblymen had stood with ex-mentri besar Tan Sri Osman Aroff in the 1990s after then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wanted to replace him with Tan Sri Sanusi Junid.

"They came back. Once the decision was made, we united again. That is the Kedah way," he said.

Asked to comment on Mukhriz's remark earlier yesterday urging the MB-designate not to "fall asleep while being sworn in", Ahmad Bashah said: "I take it as motivation. There is nothing to feel slighted or angry with. Politics is like that."

Mukhriz's swipe is supposedly based on a video clip on the Internet showing Ahmad Bashah with eyes closed and a hand under his chin at a formal state function.

"I've told the Prime Minister. I wasn't asleep. He said to me a lot of people closed their eyes in Parliament, too. He asked if I made any sounds and when I said no, he said that's not sleeping," he said.

Ahmad Bashah, nevertheless had good words for Mukhriz, whom he said was a good man.

"When I was the state Umno chief and he was my deputy, I gave him many instructions and he carried them all out.

"He has a bright future in Umno and I believe that one day, when he is with us fully again, he will be accepted," he said.

Ahmad Bashah, who said Mukhriz was not forced to resign, added that he did not lobby to be Mukhriz's replacement.

"This change took place because it is the wish of all the Umno division leaders, wing leaders and even the Barisan Nasional assemblymen. I only led the press conference two weeks ago asking the Prime Minister to help us obtain a change in the state party leadership because I am the deputy Umno chief at the state level.

"I did not ask for this post. But as a five-term assemblyman in Kedah, I have seen much and will bring my wealth of experience to serving the state," he said.

Asked about Mukhriz's claim that there had been a plan for one-and-a-half years to erode his power as party state chief, Ahmad Bashah said that was only his perception.

"There was no such plan. Kedah Umno only asked for a change," he said.

Ahmad Bashah tendered his resignation as senator and Deputy Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister and will be sworn in as the 12th mentri besar of Kedah this morning at Istana Anak Bukit.

I was there as Mukhriz's old friend, says Cheah

Heads turned when a state Gerakan leader walked in with Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir for the press conference where the latter announced his resignation.

Kedah Gerakan chief Datuk Dr Cheah Soon Hai walked in with Mukhriz's 30-odd supporters and took the second seat on the right of Mukhriz at the head of the table.

Sungai Tiang assemblyman Datuk Suraya Yaacob took the first seat and Jitra assemblyman Datuk Aminuddin Omar took the one on the left.

All the other supporters crammed behind the four.

Though Suraya and Aminuddin had publicly declared their support for Mukhriz previously, Dr Cheah had not been in the picture until yesterday morning.

"I appeared as Mukhriz's old friend and adviser of Invest Kedah. There was no political purpose," he said.

Dr Cheah said one of Mukhriz's personal assistants had called him and asked if he could walk into the press conference with Mukhriz.

"I went in my personal capacity to help him overcome any sadness he may feel, just in case," he said.

Dr Cheah said he was also an old friend of Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, who is replacing Mukhriz, and had no problems with him.

Gerakan secretary-general Liang Teck Meng said the party fully supported Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

"We abide by the change of mentri besar and stand firmly behind Ahmad Bashah. We have no intention of interfering in Umno politics," he said.

He said it was not strange since Dr Cheah enjoyed a good relationship with Mukhriz, who had been Kedah Barisan Nasional chairman, adding he was confident Dr Cheah would support the new leadership.